Anyone knowing of an Edward Albee play that hasn't been revived or mentioned for a new production in the past few years, raise your hand. If you were about to say The Death of Bessie Smith, you're wrong — a new mounting of the 1959 work will be presented by The Illyria Theatre at La MaMa, Jan. 4-21 — just as Tiny Alice winds up its extended stay at Second Stage, and around the time The Play About the Baby begins its Off-Broadway commercial run.
Bessie Smith was Albee's second play and the only work of his concerning a historical figure. It was first produced in 1959 and remounted by the author in 1968. The story, set mainly in a Southern hospital in 1937, concerns Blues singer Smith, who, reportedly, bled to death after a Memphis car accident because the city's white-only hospitals refused to admit her. Smith herself is never seen in the drama. Instead, the central figure is an embittered nurse.
Albee is the author of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf (which will get a major revival at Minneapolis' Guthrie Theatre in early 2001), A Delicate Balance (recipient of a Broadway production several seasons back), Three Tall Women, The Lorca Play (planning a 2001 Off-Broadway production) and The Zoo Story.
Tickets are $15. La MaMa is located at 74A E. 4Th Street in Manhattan. Call (212) 475-7710.
—By Robert Simonson