This is a play by Edward Albee, and boy does it feel like it. Agnes, a woman in her later fifties, opens the play with a discussion of possibly losing her mind. This is taken as sport by her husband Tobias, and her sister Claire who lives in the house with them. One of the prevailing motifs in the play is about alcoholism, but specifically discussions about whether or not someone’s behavior is past the line of alcoholism, or if alcohol abuse might be symptom of something else. This is not a “drunk” play like Days of Wine and Roses, which takes on the subject head-on and like anything that feels more like a moralizing play or a social play feels ultimately one-note. Instead, this is about the concept of being an alcoholic, if that happens to be true, and what that means for the person. Edward Albee is a stronger writer than the other playwright, because of the things that comes up repeatedly is what does it mean to feel like you’re losing your sense of self, to any given possibilities.
This opening section also has a long and upsetting story from Tobias about having a cat for a long time who one day simply decided, after 15 years, that it didn’t like him anymore. And this leads to a conversation about what we can and can’t know, expect, or control about other people.
The other tension in the play is that their adult daughter Julia is about to return, on the cusp of a divorce. This causes everyone to revisit early scenes from the marriage and the choices made that cause Julia to be an only child. Like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, this tries to explore those hidden crevices of long marriages.