Edward Albee is famous for declining to discuss the meanings of his plays. But the cast of Albee's latest--The Play About the Baby, at the Century Center for the Performing Arts--is not so reticent. All four of the play's actors will participate in "talkback" sessions with their audiences following performances on April 12, 19, 26, and May 3.
Many questions will no doubt be directed toward Marian Seldes, who stars as "Woman" to the "Man" of Brian Murray in the production. Seldes may be said to have a special affinity for Albee, as she has previously appeared to acclaim in the original productions of the playwright's A Delicate Balance (for which she won a Tony Award), Tiny Alice, and Three Tall Women. These talkbacks will perhaps allow the actress and her colleagues to shed some light on a highly enigmatic work: The Play About the Baby is an allegory (I think!) concerning a young couple played by Kathleen Early and David Burtka who (apparently?) have a baby that is subsequently stolen by the Seldes and Murray characters.
Is there any reluctance on the part of the cast to discuss the play when Albee so adamantly refuses to do so? "I don't think it's a problem," Seldes explains. "We're speaking not for the playwright, but for ourselves. Any actor knows that there are many interpretations of a part. When you're in an Albee play, you are giving a performance that has been rehearsed under the playwright's direction, in a sense, because he's always there and he's always part of it. So you feel at ease to discuss what you're doing, because his eyes have been on it."
Given the widely varying interpretations of Albee's plays in general and The Play About the Baby in particular, did Seldes decide on specific meanings for the events, word, and symbols of the play in creating her character? "I arrived at very specific meanings for every moment that I'm on the stage with the other actors," she says, "but not to the point where I would verbalize a critique of the play for another person."
Seldes is very much looking forward to these talkback discussions. "I think it's a lovely feeling to immediately connect with an audience that has just seen the play," she says. "It's rather a privilege."