Back on the Beach

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PLAYWRIGHT EDWARD ALBEE and Charles Darwin are coming head-to-head (or, more appropriately, head-to-gills) this year in the Broadway revival of Albee’s 1975 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Seascape, about the unusual meeting at the seaside of two couples of different species. (The Sandbox meets Zoo Story?) The playwright, who is often associated with absurdist existential dramas and blighted domsetic relationships, refers to Seascape as “an optimistic play, a rose play, as Jean Anouilh would have said.” (The revival is directed by Mark Lamos and opening at the Booth Theater.)

First produced four years after All Over (1971), a somber portrayal of the death of a family patriarch and its impact on the various survivors, Seascape can be viewed as a lighter, more optimistic version of the earlier play’s preoccupation with human mortality. While All Over ends with the utterance of those two words, Seascape, an autumnal fantasia on mortality, ends with the word “Begin.”

“When I write a play, I’m interested in changing the way people look at themselves and the way they look at life,” Albee explains. “The knowledge that you are going to die should present [an]intense awareness of life. People should be aware of all things, all times, experience the extremities of life, and fulfill themselves completely. Why does anyone want to go to sleep when the only thing left is to stay awake?”

At the time of this interview, Albee, who’s constantly on the move, whether supervising productions of his plays or teaching playwriting and creative writing at the University of Houston, was at home in his art-filled loft in New York City’s Tribeca district. He’s an avid collector of modern painting (Kandinsky, Lipshitz, Arp) and African sculpture, whose minimalist and Cubist lines reflect his own unique style of communication.

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