Commentary: The Mysterious Case of Edward Albee’s Play Reappears in LA

It isn’t every single day that I see a play by Edward Albee that I’ve by no means learn or seen earlier than.

An unbiased title is “Fam and Yam,” which feels like one thing Samuel Beckett might need thought of and rejected for considered one of his minimalist items. This work is just not included within the three-volume version of Albee’s assortment of performs. And I do not bear in mind listening to about it till the Pacific Resident Theater’s “Albee/Beckett” invoice got here out.

The Venice Theater presents “Fam and Yam” because the closing act to Harold Pinter’s extra down-to-earth and extra fashionable “The Dumb Waiter.” These works haven’t got a lot in widespread besides that they’re two-handed works that since 1960 irrational playwrights have fiercely blazed their very own means.

Directed by Marilyn Fox, creative director of the Pacific Resident Theatre, “Fam and Yam” is extra sketchy than absolutely realized one-acts. Albee, after all, was one of many masters of the brief type. Maybe essentially the most well-known one-act play in historical past, “The Zoo Story” started his profession in 1959 and nonetheless holds an honorable place alongside his large-scale masterpieces reminiscent of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” “Delicate Steadiness” and “Three tall girls.”

The scenario of the household and the yam is just not with out autobiographical curiosity. The play offers a snapshot of the next. Albywho deceased In 2016, an up-and-coming younger playwright with impeccable manners is nonetheless a decided revolutionary, bent on overthrowing the moribund theater system.

After writing a congratulatory letter, Yam arrives at Fam’s deluxe East Aspect house. Yam is a spot related to the Joan Crawford and Susan Hayward movies. Fam is flawed, which Yam notes by way of references to Columbia College intellectuals who take into account Fam’s ease of output an indication of “industrial hacking.” (The professor in query is a sleazy model of the acclaimed critic Robert Brustein.)

Able to be praised, Fam anxiously finds herself refilling her sherry glass. He congratulates Yam on the success of his new Off-Broadway play. what do you name it once more? “Dilemma, abandonment, demise,” Yam recollects, including that it opened 4 months in the past.

If Yam is clearly Albee and “Dilemma, Dereliction and Demise” is an alternative to “The Zoo Story,” then who’s Fam? In Albee’s biography, Mel Gussow notes that the profitable older playwright had “Come Again, Little Sheba”, “Picnic”, “Bus Cease”,” and “The Darkish on the Prime of the Stairs” all tailored into movies.

Anticipating suggestions, Albee despatched Inge a replica of “The Zoo Story”, however acquired solely a well mannered, obscure reply. Thanks, but it surely’s okay. One technology was not significantly desirous to make room for the subsequent. However Albee was not simply deterred. He went to Inge’s house and embraced the ostentatious opulence of a author who might need realized for himself that his personal heyday had handed.

Gussow calls “Fam and Yam” a “malicious spoof” of this real-life encounter. When Yam explains the explanation for his go to, the battle between the outdated guard and the avant-garde escalates within the play. He is writing an article in regards to the state of American theater, which is on the lookout for heroes to reward however extra desirous to name out the “villains” that stand in the best way of progress.

The listing of targets for prosecution consists of theater house owners, producers, sponsors, unions, critics, administrators and, sure, playwrights. Evidently nobody is secure from Yam’s manic wrath. Albee sends Albee parodying the militant excesses of the brand new wave he was serving to to steer.

“That… that… that doesn’t go away a lot to the hero, does it?” milquetoast Fam says nervously. He’s not in any respect happy with the concept of ​​a person with a stylish geometric haircut being pushed out into the grass.

Albee ridicules, flatters, and caricatures the erratic Professor Fam as insincere. Even his giggle (in Brad Greenquist’s efficiency) is disingenuous. A creature of social pretense, he has misplaced the creative authenticity he as soon as possessed.

Nevertheless, Albee doesn’t intervene with Yam both. The character acts as a courtier, however the compliments he provides are obviously bogus. Yam realizes that he’s going up and Fam goes down. And since Fam will not provide him a serving to hand, Yam is very happy to offer him a very good push. Jason Downs’ portrayal captures the passive nature of Yam’s aggression.

The play would not go to nice lengths to cover the actual mannequin. Yam joined Fam in a gaggle of playwrights that included Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, and Thornton Wilder. Inge. Fam is Jack Gelber, Jack Richardson, Arthur Kopit and naturally Alby.

An ironic shrug precedes Inge and Albee on the pinnacle of this listing. Albee, nevertheless, by no means wrote a play through which his experiences weren’t translated into artwork. Though an easy biography lay beneath him, his works reveal points of his life.

So why did “Fam and Yam” considerably disappear? I requested the Albee actual property consultant why this work had been overlooked of the Overlook Duckworth three-volume play assortment. The response had a wonderfully crisp Albee-esque opacity. There are different small items and fragments that aren’t included within the anthology.”

I feel the exclusion of “Fam and Yam” is What occur When Inge tragically dedicated suicide in Los Angeles in 1973, his once-bright profession went into free fall. Gussow studies in his 1999 biography that Inge was outraged after the 1960 journal problem of “Fam and Yam”.

Inge writes in a letter to composer Ned Rorem: It’s a work that may give him plenty of embarrassment sooner or later. My God, what a smug little creature he should be to put in writing as if he have been completely positive of his future fame!”

Lengthy after the premiere of “Fam and Yam” in 1960, Albee included the track in a one-act touring invoice he directed himself known as “Albee Directs Albee.” The manufacturing, a marathon over three evenings, started in Los Angeles in 1978.

If Albee had felt the work was unfair to Inge, it’s uncertain that Inge would have chosen to stage a modified model of the play within the metropolis the place he had died only a few years earlier. Maybe Gussow’s biography later modified Albee’s thoughts.

“Fam and Yam” is a minor work in a means that his finest brief acts (“The Zoo Story,” “The Sandbox,” and “The American Dream”) aren’t. In her evaluate of the 1978 manufacturing, Instances theater critic Sylvie Drake identifies “Fam and Yam” as “Albee Directs Albee”‘s weak hyperlink, calling the screenplay “the slimmest of self-sneers” and a “cliche spoof”.

This verdict continues to be in impact in 2022. Pacific Resident Theater’s productions are extra of a historic curiosity than a satisfying theatrical discovery. However it nonetheless makes for an fascinating appetizer to Pinter’s essential course.

Co-directed by Elina de Santos and Fox, “The Dumb Waiter” doesn’t disappoint. Downs (who does double responsibility) and Anthony Foux have a Pinter-esque menacing downpatrick. And it is fantastic to see the actors immerse themselves within the secretive, exact language of two artists who usher in a brand new fashion of play that may perpetually change the best way the characters converse and act on stage.

‘Albee/Pinter’: ‘Fam and Yam’ and ‘The Dumb Waiter’

the place: Pacific Resident Theater, 705½ Venice Blvd., Venice
when: It runs till December seventeenth. (Examine the theater web site for schedule and availability of extensions)
value: Beginning at $25
Info: (310) 822-8392 or pacificresidenttheatre.org/albee-pinter
Operating Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

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