Welcome Back, Glenda Jackson!

Welcome Back, Glenda Jackson!

Three days on, and I’ve yet to come down from the high of seeing—make that experiencing—Glenda Jackson in Edward Albee’s Pulitzer Prize-winning “Three Tall Women.” At 81 (82 on May 9, but who’s counting?), the actress is at the peak of her powers. I hadn’t realized until Wednesday’s matinee how much I have missed her clarion call of a voice; expressive, wide-open face; lightning fast delivery of a line; wicked sense of humor; intelligence; and sublime ease with stage business.

Miss Jackson and I go back, way back to 1965 and her Broadway debut in the Royal Shakespeare Company production of “The Persecution and Assassination of Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade” (“Marat/Sade,” for short). Her Charlotte Corday lives in memory, and that’s before she became a household name and an Oscar winner for the movie, “Women in Love.”  I’ve seen her in Shakespeare (Lady Macbeth to Christopher Plummer’s Thane of Cawdor), in O’Neill (Nina Leeds in “Strange Interlude”), as English poet Stevie Smith in “Stevie” and now as Albee’s grande dame. I guess I’m a fan. 

Of course, it helps that she has a great play and role to sink her teeth into. As A, her character’s name, she’s a wealthy, irascible, demented, physically infirm woman on the verge of going into that good night. But not gently. Hardly gently. She remembers, sometimes forgets, never forgives. It’s a tour de force that Jackson’s professional life—in the theater, on film and, in self-imposed “retirement” from entertainment, as a Member of Parliament for 20-odd years (how’s that for a second act?)—has prepared her for.

It also helps that she is ably supported by Laurie Metcalf (riding high on the reboot of TV’s “Roseanne and her 2017 Tony Award for “A Doll’s House, Part 1”) and Alison Pill. But if my eyes and ears were firmly riveted on Jackson for an intermissionless hour and 45 minutes, that’s the way it was.

Wouldn’t it be nice if Jackson’s gender-blind “King Lear” (yes, she played the king in London in 2016) were to make its way to these shores? Better than nice, it would be a theater lover’s dream come true. Until that time, “Three Tall Women” and Jackson are this season’s must-sees.

“Three Tall Women,” Golden Theatre, 252 W. 45th St., 212.239.6200. Tickets on sale thru June 24, 2018.

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