The Lady From Dubuque

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Previewed 3 March 2007, Opened 20 March 2007, Closed 9 June 2007 at the Haymarket Theatre in London

A major production of Edward Albee's play The Lady From Dubuque in London starring Dame Maggie Smith and Catherine McCormack and directed by Anthony Page.

A party game... twenty questions... who am I?... who are you?... The Lady From Dubuque has, as central to the plot, the theme of cancer.

The cast for The Lady From Dubuque in London stars Maggie Smith in the title role along with Catherine Mc-Cormack as 'Jo', Robert Sella as 'Sam', Glen Fleshler as 'Fred', Jennifer Regan as 'Carol', Chris Larkin as 'Edgar', Vivienne Benesch as 'Lucinda' and Peter Francis James as 'Oscar'. The production is directed by Anthony Page with designs by Hildegard Bechtler and lighting by Howard Harrison. Anthony Page's London directing credits include Eric-Emmanuel Schmitt's play Enigmatic Variations starring Donald Sutherland at the Savoy Theatre in 2000.

"Edward Albee's 1980 play hinges on the arrival of an uninvited guest. Anthony Page's new production hangs on the entrance of the actor playing that guest, Dame Maggie Smith, which heightens the sense of anticipation that underpins the whole play. For this is a play about waiting waiting for death... Smith's calm authority, wry humour and watchful stillness shift the mood of the play, which has until then been rancorous and volatile. And this is where Page's fine production scores. Page finds the shape underneath all the surface bickering: the gradual passage from rage to peace that suggests it is best seen as a psychological study of the shifting emotions in the face of impending death. It's not easy to watch, though, and not only for the right reasons. Page and his strong cast can't rescue the play from its own clever-cleverness." The Financial Times

"Let me put this kindly: Edward Albee's play, reverently directed by Anthony Page, is not to everyone's taste. When it opened in New York in 1980 it ran for just 12 performances. The first hour or so feels as though the playwright was trying to reheat his Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? but serves it up tepid... The arrival of the Dame - twin-set and pearls, dyed blonde hair and looking rather like Bette Davis in Death on the Nile - suddenly makes the play intriguing... Dame Maggie's presence brings out the best in her fellow actors... Albee doesn't make anything absolutely clear in this oddity of a play, which is fun, and which works, simply because Dame Maggie has willed it to." The Sunday Telegraph

"Uninvited guests whose intrusion is both sinister and, finally, cathartic are an established trope, but nobody does it better than Albee here, mercilessly loading on the tragicomedy... Meanwhile, the finest comic pronouncements come from Peter Francis James, in a quite magnificent performance as Oscar... Under Anthony Page's fluent direction, lines are delivered crossing and interrupting each other in a flurry of messy naturalism, but this is counterpointed by characters frequently turning aside to address the audience directly - too frequently, a flaw... Far less well known over here than some of Albee's other works... yet, as this immaculate production shows, it's a deft, powerful work, with a real daring in the lady and Oscar hinting at otherworldly presences - but only hinting. Albee is too subtle a playwright to do more than that." The Sunday Times

"That bold and brilliant playwright Edward Albee has never shied from the taboo, which is doubtless why The Lady From Dubuque flopped on Broadway in 1980. It's about dying, certainly one of the most harrowing plays I've seen, but also one of the most intriguing, compelling and moving. I laughed as much as I wept. Anthony Page, a director with a special gift for Albee, digs deep and uncovers astonishing treasure - though I would put a health warning on this piece for anyone nursing someone with a terminal illness, for this play has the rawness of an open wound... What begins as an after-supper game of 'Who Am I?' subsides into an abusive, Albee-style round of Get The Guests. Sam watches helplessly.Conscious of his wife diminishing in every sense before his eyes, he insists that all he can do is hold on to the thing he's losing. As he says,'It's a death house I'm keeping here and nobody can help.' At the close of the first act, when everyone has gone to bed, help arrives in the unlikely shape of two strangers. At which point a dark, domestic comedy dives into the surreal. In a scene echoing the opening, the second half begins with another guessing game. Who is this woman? And who is her camp, well-tailored, black companion? The woman is played by Maggie Smith, and her performance has as many facets as a diamond. She insists that she is Jo's estranged mother whom we heard described earlier as a lady from Dubuque, very tall and very fat with a pink rinse, no detail of which matches this woman's sophisticated appearance. Oscar, meanwhile, appears to exist as a hilarious opportunity to send up every redneck prejudice to blacks and is played to perfection by Peter Francis James. The woman is, it seems, the Angel of Death, into whose arms Jo immediately surrenders and finds peace. She's the embodiment of motherhood, swooping in when a person most needs a mother-figure to play a role too terrible for a real parent or lover, that of enabling a dying loved one to let go. At the hour of our death, may we all be blessed with an angel with Maggie's magic touch. Tough watching but hugely rewarding." The Mail on Sunday

Maggie Smith made her debut with the Oxford University Drama Society (OUDS) as Viola in 1952 and since then has been awarded two Oscars, countless Best Actress awards and has received both the CBE and DBE. In 1963 Maggie Smith joined the National Theatre at the Old Vic and appeared in Othello playing Desdemona opposite Laurence Olivier as well as a number of other plays, including Hedda Gabler for which she won the Evening Standard Best Actress Award. Her other award winning stage credits in London's West End include The Private Ear And The Public Eye (Evening Standard Best Actress Award); Mary Mary (Variety Club Award for Best Actress); Private Lives (Variety Club Award for Best Actress); Virginia (Evening Standard Drama Award for Best Actress); The Way of the World (Evening Standard Drama Award for Best Actress); and two seasons of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women (Evening Standard Best Actress Award). She also starred in Lettice And Lovage in London and on Broadway at the Barrymore Theatre, winning the Tony Award for Best Actress. Maggie Smith's recent London West End stage appearances include two seasons of Edward Albee's Three Tall Women at The Wyndham's Theatre in 1994 and 1995, winning the Evening Standard Best Actress Award; Alan Bennett's Talking Heads at the Comedy Theatre in 1996; Edward Albee's A Delicate Balance at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in 1997; and Alan Bennet's The Lady in the Van at the Queen's Theatre in 1999. Dame Maggie Smith was awarded the Hamburg Shakespeare Prize in 1991, is a Fellow of the British Film Institute, and Honorary D. Litt of Cambridge University and St Andrew's and a patron of the Jane Austen Society.

The author Edward Allbee wrote his first play in 1958 (excluding his childhood writings). Called The Zoo Story, it received its world premiere staging in Berlin in 1959 prior to Edward Albee directing the off-Broadway production of it in New York in 1960. The following year Edward Albee wrote perhaps his most famous play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. This play was presented on Broadway in New York in 1962 winning the Tony Awards for Best Play, Best Actor in a Play (for Arthur Hill), Best Actress in a Play (for Uta Hagen), Best Featured Actress in a Play and Best Direction of a Play (for Alan Schneider). Edward Albee's other credits include the Pulitzer Prize winning plays A Delicate Balance, Seascape and Three Tall Women. Edward Albee wrote The Lady from Dubuque in 1977 and it was staged on Broadway in 1980 in a production directed by Alan Schneider. Unfortuantely the play lasted for only 20 performances (including previews). Edward Albee's recent stage credits in London's West End include Three Tall Women at The Wyndham's Theatre in 1994 and A Delicate Balance revived at the Haymarket Theatre Royal in 1997 - both starring Dame Maggie Smith; Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? revived at The Aldwych Theatre in 1996 and The Apollo Theatre in 2006; and The Goat, or Who Is Sylvia? at The Apollo Theatre in 2004.

The Lady From Dubuque in London at the Haymarket Theatre previewed from 3 March 2007, opened on 20 March 2007 and closed on 9 June 2007.