In the play, a party at which three couples have been playing 20 Questions ends when Jo, the hostess who is dying of cancer, can no longer bear her pain. Afterwards, a mysterious woman, the “lady from Dubuque” (Smith), who may be the mother of the hostess, arrives and raises more difficult questions.
The new production, directed by Anthony Page, marks the UK premiere of Albee’s play, which lasted only a week on Broadway after a savage review in the New York Times. Since the Eighties, Albee’s reputation has been restored with Three Tall Women (premiered in Vienna in 1991 before rolling out in the US, UK and elsewhere) and revivals of his earlier work.
Director Anthony Page has had great success with the latter, not least his production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1962), starring Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin in the West End earlier this year. Page directed Smith in Albee’s A Delicate Balance (1966) at the Haymarket in 1997. Smith was last seen in the West End, again at the Haymarket, in the 2002 world premiere of David Hare’s The Breath of Life alongside fellow Dame Judi Dench.
In The Lady from Dubuque, Smith will be joined by Catherine McCormack, currently at the Criterion in The 39 Steps, as her possible daughter Jo. No further casting has yet been announced. Currently in preview at the Haymarket, Richard Alfieri’s American comedy Six Dance Lessons in Six Weeks, starring Billy Zane and Claire Bloom, opens its limited season on 29 November (See News, 9 Oct 2006).
- by Terri Paddock