If Joe Fava has a niche in the local theater community, it’s directing classic comedies and big Broadway musicals. So, why is he running the show for Edward Albee’s 1994 Pulitzer Prize-winning drama, “Three Tall Women,” opening Friday night at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse?
“I don’t normally do this kind of stuff, but I thought it was something I could have a lot of fun with,” said Fava, a long-time performer and director with the Schenectady Civic Players.
“I usually do a lot of comedy and big shows, but I’ve always thought that this was a very interesting play, one of Albee’s best. The work hangs together beautifully, and the language and situations are wonderful.”
“Three Tall Women” is about women of three different generations, identified only by the letters A, B and C. Character A is an older woman played by Joanne Westervelt, who is looking back on her life with both satisfaction and regret. Character B, played by Christine M. Loffredo, is Character A’s middle-aged caretaker, and Character C, portrayed by Stephanie M. Insogna, is an attorney in her 20s sent to the home to work with the woman’s finances.
“I don’t want to give things away, but let me say that the first act is today and the second act is from yesterday,” said Fava. “The trick of the play is to find the subtlety within the show, and as director I have to make sure the audience understands what’s going on. That’s been the fun part for me.”
‘Three Tall Women’
WHERE: Schenectady Civic Playhouse, 12 South Church St., Schenectady
WHEN: Opens 8 p.m. Friday and runs through Feb. 3; performance times are 7:30 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
HOW MUCH: $15
MORE INFO: 382-2081, www.civicplayers.org
The three actresses in the show are all Schenectady Civic Playhouse veterans, even the 29-year-old Insogna.
“I’ve worked with all of them before but that’s not why I cast them,” said Fava. “I cast them because they read best for their parts. It’s worked out very well, and they’re making things easy for me.”
“Three Tall Women” was Albee’s comeback play. Born in 1928 just outside of Washington, D.C., he had already won Pulitzers in 1967 (“A Delicate Balance”) and 1975 (“Seascape”) before he claimed his third prize in 1994. An openly gay man who often wrote unsympathetically of the human condition, Albee was also in line to win the 1963 Pulitzer for his most famous work (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”) when the award’s drama jury was overruled by the advisory committee because of the play’s language and subject matter. Albee remains active at the age of 83, his most recent work, “At Home at the Zoo,” being produced in 2009.
“Every actress wants to do an Albee play,” said Insogna, a graduate of Schenectady High School who went on to get a theater degree from SUNY-Brockport.
“As soon as I got a copy of the script, I read it and found it very interesting. He kind of grabs you right from the get-go and there are no lulls in the action. The two acts are very different, but you become very interested in finding out about these women and what’s going to happen to them.”
In the first act, much of the action centers on Character A’s storytelling and the responses it elicits from the other characters.
“It’s about her telling the story of her life, and how my character becomes very frustrated when she goes off on these tangents, and how Character B just placates her and lets her tell the story,” said Insogna. “Act Two is very different and it’s been fun working on it. I knew it would be a good experience working again with Joe, and Joanne and Christine are both so talented.”
Insogna was most recently in “Dangerous Liaisons” at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse, playing Madam de Tarvel, and also performed there in “The Royal Family,” “Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde,” and “Stage Door.” She has also worked with the Schenectady Light Opera Company, the Classic Theater Guild and the Saratoga Shakespeare Company.
“I’ve been performing as long as I can remember,” she said. “I think I was dancing when I was 3, as soon as my parents let me. I also actually did Shakespeare in the sixth grade, and it’s been my passion and my hobby ever since. I would love to do some professional work should that opportunity come my way, but I’m also very happy with what I’m doing in our theater community.”
Insogna is married, has a job and takes care of her young daughter, Natalie.
“I have a 3-year-old at home so that makes things much more challenging,” she said. “But I do love it, and I usually do at least one show at year at Schenectady Civic.”
Insogna said she’s welcoming the opportunity to play more character roles.
Up for challenge
“I’ve done both leading roles and supporting, and though I’m approaching my 30s, I’m not quite ready to let go of the ingenue role if I don’t have to,” she said. “But I like character roles. I’m always up for that challenge.”
“Three Tall Women” is Westervelt’s 19th appearance at the Schenectady Civic Playhouse. She appeared in both the 1977 and 2011 productions of “The Royal Family,” and was also in “Private Lives,” “The Night of the Iguana,” “Blithe Spirit,” and “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof.” She has also appeared at Curtain Call Theatre, Albany Civic Theater and with Theatre Voices.
Coincidentally, Loffredo is also performing in her 19th production with the Schenectady Civic Players. Her credits there include “Educating Rita,” “Painting Churches,” “Dancing at Lughnasa,” “Steel Magnolias,” “The Trip to Bountiful,” and “Blithe Spirit.”