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June 06, 1981 - Image 7

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Publication:
Michigan Daily, 1981-06-06

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The Michigan Daily-Saturday, June 6, 1981-Page 7
Albee in the Loft

By CHRISTOPdHER POTTER
While watching the current Canter-
bury Loft production of Edward Albee's
short play Counting the Ways, I sensed
something slightly out of whack - a
vague disassociation above and apart
from the small disjointed series of
vignettes Albee chose to parade in front
of his audience.
About two-thirds of the way through
this two-character study of the ongoing
contortions of romance, the source of
my dislocation became clear: The man
asks the woman "How many children
do we have?" The woman thinks, per-
plexed-three ... no, four ... no,
three - eventually, she walks off to the
bedroom to check.
'Counting the Ways'
by Edward Albee

June4-7
THE WIT of this Albeesque dig at
familial discombobulation was largely
obliterated by the discovery that this
pair of nice, college-age protagonists
we had been watching was actually
meant to be a couple at least into their
40s - perhaps a good deal older than
that. A subsequent check back to the
production Albee himself directed here
two years ago revealed his use of two
middle-aged actors as his protagonists.
If current director Elayne Devlin had
made some attempt to age her two per-
formers into their proper time perspec-
tive, many of the baroque trivialities in
Counting the Ways might have
acquired sufficient depth and poignan-
cy to make it memorable; deprived of
its chronological focus, the play seems
no more than another descending step
into the clever inconsequentiality that
has characterized virtually all of
Albee's post-Virginia Woolf work.
Counting the Ways is subtitled "a
vaudeville," and proceeds in
vaudevillian 'form - brief snippets of
conversation, both actor-to-actor and
actor-to-audience, separated by short
blackouts. At play's beginning, the man
asks, "Do you love me?"; at play's end,
the woman answers - assertively, not
tentatively - "I think I do." In bet-
ween, the two muse, often cryptically,
about their relationship - usually
focusing on their less-than-perfect sex
life,
The man turns visibly upset over the
TV listing of the movie Love in the Af-
ternoon - the conversation soon
mutates into a comparison of after-
noon, morning, and evening sex. The
woman reminisces about prom night, at
is preserved on
The Michigan Daily
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which two different beaus competed for
her affections; later on, the man is
horrified to discover he and his spouse
now sleep in separate beds.
AT ONE POINT the play stops dead
and the two performers introduce
themselves to the audience, complete
with short biographical sketches. Does
Albee suffer from a case of the
Brechtian cutsies?
Director Devlin's production is spar-
se (a table and two chairs provide
adequate scenery), tight, and ex-
tremely well-paced-a near-flawless
production were it not for her per-
plexing decision not to age her actors.
Daniel Chace and Lori Beth Holdren
perform without a smidgen of stage
makeup, in clothes that give not the
slightest hint that Albee's two charac-
ters are in anything less than the bloom
of early adulthood.
The performances are adequate -
Chace, especially, exhibits potential for
being a splendid comedic thespian -
yet the actors never attempt to play
age at all. When the two of them drop
character and introduce themselves,
there's no transition whatsoever;
they've been emoting in exactly the same
mode throughout the play.
It's questionable whether Counting
the Ways would succeed in any inter-
pretation-it rambles, contorts, and
ultimately bores (save for one lyric
moment when Albee suggests that love
itself never dies - rather, it is an eter-
nal state of consciousness that each
mortal human being merely passes
through).
Such haunting touches have become
all too rare in the work of a playwright
who nearly twenty years ago penned
America's greatest play, Who's Afraid
of Virginia Woolf, then found himself
with nothing left to say. Albee has likely
made peace with the world over the en-
suing two decades, and perhaps found it
a less interesting place as a result. Yet,
as we forgive Orson Welles for all his
post-Citizen Kane irrelevancies, so we
forgive Albee his own trivialities. Tar-
nished icon though he's become, an icon
he remains.

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