NYC: Wanna Bet Bill de Blasio Will Win Reelection? Why the Odds Are Strongly in his Favor.

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If you happen to find yourself in any bar in Manhattan south of 96th St. and the conversation turns to politics, try offering this declarative sentence: “There’s a good chance de Blasio gets reelected next year.” If the reactions are anything close to ones I’ve received, expect a mixture of shock, confusion and, in some cases, anger.

The doubters are wrong. Mayor de Blasio remains the odds-on favorite — for very good reasons.

It’s been a particularly rough six months for the mayor. Investigations into his administration have dominated the tabloids and stifled his ability to communicate a coherent message. Polls now show a majority of New Yorkers don’t think he deserves reelection.

Now de Blasio must contend with a potentially well-funded group called NYC Deserves Better, started by a former political aide to Michael Bloomberg, which is holding open casting calls in search of a Democratic primary challenger.

Given these headwinds, why bet long on de Blasio for reelection?

Start with Election Day itself. Don’t be fooled by the accident of 20 recent years of Republican and independent mayoralties. The real 2017 election for mayor will be held Sept. 12, the Democratic primary — not on general Election Day. That’s because there’s a 7-to-1 registered Democratic advantage among the electorate.

The questions are which respected Democrat will step up to challenge de Blasio — and, given the mayor’s record, whether that challenger can articulate an effective message.

Highly unlikely. Only twice in the past 40 years has an incumbent Democrat lost to a primary challenger (Ed Koch to David Dinkins in 1989 and Abe Beame to Koch in 1977). Those conditions — deteriorating race relations in 1989 and the collapse of the city’s finances in the 1970s — are a far cry from today’s environment, with unprecedented low crime rates, rising test scores, job creation and fiscal stability .

De Blasio’s acuity at winning Democratic primaries has been tried and tested. He seemingly came out of nowhere in the 2009 public advocate race to beat Mark Green, and his win of the Democratic mayoral nomination in 2013 still has the political establishment in this town shaking their heads.

That’s partially because of who makes up the Democratic primary electorate these days: public-sector union members, minorities, immigrants, NYCHA residents and the hard left within the party. In short, groups that have been waiting two decades for a progressive mayor to hang a “welcome” sign on the front doors to City Hall.

Match that with de Blasio policy initiatives: Settling labor contracts covering 300,000 public-sector union members. Issuing 850,000 municipal IDs, many of which give immigrants their first real form of identification. Paid sick leave. Free universal pre-K for more than 100,000 kids. Reducing the NYCHA repairs backlog by investing in long-needed infrastructure.

Placating the base alone won’t guarantee success in 2017, though — and de Blasio knows it. After a year of forgoing town hall meetings, he’s now made them routine. He’s traveling more to middle-class neighborhoods like Bay Ridge, Brooklyn; Staten Island, and Throgs Neck in the Bronx, tackling quality-of-life issues important to centrist Democrats.

Image result for Preet Bharara
Preet Bharara

It’s not all smooth sailing ahead. Nobody disrupts political careers like Preet Bharara. But with little evidence suggesting de Blasio or his staff personally profited from any alleged wrongdoing, the mayor’s chances of being directly implicated are slim.

With no formidable opponents, crime continuing to decline as 1,000 new officers hit the streets, manageable projected deficits and underlying political realities, New Yorkers need to start getting used to seeing Bill de Blasio around for another four years.

Greenspun is a managing director at Mercury Public Affairs, a former commissioner of the Community Affairs Unit under Mayor Michael Bloomberg and an appointee by Mayor de Blasio to the Human Rights Commission.

The Long Summer of Discontent Ends with Police Shooting Deaths of Two Black Men and a Riot.

Differing stories: The family of Keith Lamont Scott (pictured with his wife Rakeyia) will be shown the video of his final moments; they insist he was carrying a book, not a gun
The family of Keith Lamont Scott (pictured with his wife Rakeyia)

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The fall equinox is technically tomorrow morning. But a riot in North Carolina following the police fatal shooting of an Afro-American overnight is a fitting bookend to three months of heightened tensions between the police and the people. The previous day, an unarmed black man was shot to death by a police officer in Tulsa, Oklahoma. From Louisiana to Minnesota to Texas, a host of incidents have again and again put racial tensions back on the front burner of the presidential campaign. They’ve also inspired the national anthem protests that have roiled the National Football League.


The killings of unarmed black men at the hands of police and the murders of cops in Dallas and Baton Rouge did not lead to a period of national healing or sustained soul searching.


The stories might have disappeared from the front pages, but the incidents have continued. Temporarily-bandaged wounds are re-opening around the country this week, as frustrations boil over.

Won't be released: Kerr Putney, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief (right, beside Mayor Jennifer Roberts), says footage will not be shown to the public
Kerr Putney, the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Chief (right, beside Mayor Jennifer Roberts)

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— What happened in Charlotte?   Keith Scott, 43, was shot and killed by Charlotte-Mecklenburg officer Brentley Vinson, who is also black, after being mistaken for a wanted man. Police say Scott, a father of seven, brandished a gun as he got out of a car; his family insist he was sitting in his car reading a book and had no gun. In a video posted to Facebook Live, Scott’s daughter Lyric can be heard yelling at investigators not to plant a weapon in Scott’s car. “Because that’s what the fuck y’all do.” 

She said Scott was parked and waiting for a school bus to drop off his son when police arrived. Officers Tasered him, then shot him four times, she said. She added that Scott was disabled.” “My daddy didn’t do nothing. They just pulled up undercover,” Detectives said they recovered the firearm they claim Scott was holding during the shooting.

Police said 44 people were arrested on Wednesday night for a variety of crimes such as assault, breaking and entering, and failure to disperse
Police said 44 people were arrested on Wednesday night for a variety of crimes such as assault, breaking and entering, and failure to disperse

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A large crowd of demonstrators gathered near the scene of the shooting last night. The gathering started peacefully but took a turn for the worst at some point after dark. Protesters shut down traffic on Interstate 85. Some opened up the backs of tractor trailers, took out boxes and set them on fire in the middle of the highway, WSOC-TV reported. A few dozen other people broke down the doors of a nearby Walmart. Police reportedly then used flash grenades to break up the crowd and cleared the highway in the wee hours of the morning.


Police said 12 officers were injured during the demonstrations, one of them hit in the face with a rock.At least 11 people were taken from the demonstrations and treated for non-life threatening injuries, per our Derek Hawkins As protests swelled, police used teargas in an attempt to disperse crowds heard yelling “Black lives matter,” and “Hands up, don’t shoot!” One person held up a sign saying “Stop killing us”; another sign said: “It was a book.”


— Scott became at least the 702nd person to be fatally shot by police so far this year, and at least the 163rd black man, according to a Washington Post database tracking fatal officer-involved shootings.

Crutcher, 40, pictured with his twin sister, Tiffany, was shot dead while his arms were in the air
Terence Crutcher, 40, pictured with his twin sister, Tiffany,

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– In Oklahoma: A day after police released video that shows a white Tulsa police officer fatally shooting an unarmed 40-year-old black man, attorneys representing the slain man’s family released photos that they said contradict a key claim in authorities’ version of events. From Peter Holley, Wesley Lowery and Derek Hawkins: “At a news conference, Benjamin Crump … said Terence Crutcher never reached his hands into the driver’s side window of his stalled sport-utility vehicle before he was shot by police. Crutcher couldn’t have reached into the vehicle, Crump said, because enhanced photos of the vehicle taken from police video show that the window was rolled up. If confirmed by police, the admission would eliminate one of the chief justifications for police using deadly force against Crutcher. 


— In Connecticut: Three state troopers were caught on camera conspiring to make up charges against a protestor at a DUI traffic checkpoint, a new lawsuit alleges. It’s another good reminder of why folks don’t trust law enforcement. (Amy Wang)

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— Against this backdrop: The National Museum of African American History and Culture has its grand opening on Saturday, as good a place as any for a national conversation on race. But these conversations are hard, and few genuinely want to engage in them.

Ahmad Rahami, suspected New York bomber, cited al-Qaeda and ISIS, officials say

The father of Ahmed Rahami, Mohammad Rahami. (Tariq Zehawi/ via AP)


— Ahmad Rahami was formally charged with using weapons of mass destruction and bombing in a public place, along with seven other counts stemming from the attacks in Manhattan and New Jersey. If convicted, he faces up to life in prison. (Ellen Nakashima, Mark Berman and William Wan) Rahami left 12 fingerprints on one of the bombs he planted and purchased materials for his bombs under his own name on eBay, according to federal charging documents. Mr. Rahami had been meticulously planning his attack since at least June, according to the complaint.
The FBI said Rahami was investigated as a possible terrorist two years ago after concerns were raised by his father, citing his son’s interest in terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and his fascination with jihadist music, poetry and videos. Rahami’sfather recanted his charge when he was first interviewed by the FBI, saying he made the statements in the heat of an argument and that he was referring to his son being a terrorist as  like he was a gangster. The revelation marks the second time this year, and the fourth time since 2013, that the bureau acknowledged it investigated someone who later carried out an act of terror.

Rahami may have been radicalized while in Afghanistan and Pakistan during a nine month stay between 2011 and 2014: Rahami and his brothers spent time with their grandfather in Afghanistan in 2012, their father said. “An item described as a handwritten journal was found on Rahami after the shootout. Included in this was a reference to Anwar al-Awlaki, an American-born cleric who was a top leader for al-Qaeda … The journal included notes that the FBI was looking for him, discussed shooting police and said he was praying to Allah ‘to not take JIHAD away.’” (More from Ellen, Mark and William)

Mr. Rahami’s wife, Asia, who left the country days before the bombing, is now in the United Arab Emirates. She provided a statement to the F.B.I., according to officials, and the authorities are working to bring her back into the country as soon as possible.

The F.B.I. believes Mr. Rahami acted alone but is trying to speak with everyone who knew him.

It was unclear when Mr. Rahami married his wife, but after returning from a nearly yearlong visit to Pakistan in March 2014, he was increasingly desperate to get her into the country.

It was unknown when her visa issue was resolved. But in August 2014, Mr. Rahami got into a fight with his family, during which he stabbed his brother in the leg with a knife, court records show. He was jailed, but the case was dismissed.

Suspect Arrested in Manhattan and New Jersey Bombings After Gunfight.

Ahmad Khan Rahami splayed out next to a street in Linden, N.J., after he was shot by police officers in a gun battle on Monday morning. He was found sleeping in a doorway of a bar.CreditEd Murray/NJ Advance Media for


The man who the police said sowed terror across two states, setting off bombs in Manhattan and on the Jersey Shore and touching off a furious manhunt, was tracked down on Monday morning sleeping in the dank doorway of a neighborhood bar and taken into custody after being wounded in a gun battle with officers.

The frenzied end came on a rain-soaked street in Linden, N.J., four hours after the police issued an unprecedented cellphone alert to millions of people in the area telling them to be on the lookout for Ahmad Khan Rahami, 28, who was described as “armed and dangerous.”

Even as the remarkably swift arrest eased fears across the region, investigators were still in the earliest stages of trying to determine what provoked the attacks, why a street in Chelsea was one of the targets and whether the bomber was aided by others.

Mr. Rahami and his family had traveled periodically to Pakistan, and on one trip, he stayed for nearly a year. A senior law enforcement official said that no evidence had yet been uncovered that he had received military training abroad.

The Rahami family’s restaurant in Elizabeth, N.J. Bryan Anselm for The New York Times


The weekend began with what seemed like an odd and troubling event, but one that hardly aroused widespread alarm.

At 9:30 a.m., three pipe bombs tied together blew apart a trash can just before the scheduled start of a Marine Corps run called Seaside Semper Five in Seaside Park, N.J.

Only one of the three bombs had detonated and no one was injured. The F.B.I. was brought in to investigate, but there was no indication about what would unfold 11 hours later.

Investigators believe that Mr. Rahami drove a car registered to his father into New York City shortly before the Chelsea blast erupted at 8:30 p.m.

In a review of surveillance video, the police later saw him near West 23rd Street and Avenue of the Americas wearing a backpack investigators believe contained one pressure cooker bomb. He was pulling a patterned duffle-type rolling bag that they believe contained another pressure cooker bomb and wearing a fanny pack on his left hip.

A tip to 911 led the police to a second device, the other pressure cooker bomb with a cellphone attached, four blocks to the north. Surveillance video collected by investigators would later show Mr. Rahami on West 27th Street, without his backpack but pulling the patterned bag and leaving it beside a mailbox.

But it would take hours to gather and analyze all of that video and zero in on Mr. Rahami as the man who left the bag behind. The unexploded bomb found on West 27th Street held critical clues. Once the police were able to remove it and examine it, they discovered a fingerprint that matched one in an arrest record for Mr. Rahami.

Ahmad Rahami is seen in a mugshot

Ahmad Rahami is seen in a mug shot

Roughly 20 minutes after Mr. Rahami left the bag on West 27th Street, two men happened upon the luggage, apparently unaware of its explosive contents. One of the men opened the bag, pulled out the bomb, which was inside a white plastic bag, and then left with the luggage. The authorities, who are eager to talk to the men, said that their handling of the device may have disabled it.

By Sunday, the authorities were monitoring addresses associated with Mr. Rahami. Increasingly confident that he was involved with the bombings, they made the decision to act when they saw a vehicle leaving one of those addresses.

The car was pulled over on the Belt Parkway near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge in Brooklyn. Five people inside, some of them Mr. Rahami’s relatives, were questioned and later released.

Later on Sunday night, the police received a report of a suspicious package near a train station in Elizabeth, N.J.

The F.B.I., which responded, deployed a pair of robots to examine the bag and determined that it held five bombs, some of which were pipe bombs.

The location of the bag was not far from where the Rahami family ran a restaurant. Before dawn on Monday, federal agents and local police officers were swarming a neighborhood of low-rise apartment buildings and small businesses. They searched the restaurant, First American Fried Chicken, and addresses where Mr. Rahami was reported to have spent time.

Burn marks can be seen in the backyard of Rahami's family home which the FBI believe are evidence of the chicken shop bomber practicing his attack

Burn marks can be seen in the backyard of Rahami’s family home which the FBI believe are evidence of the chicken shop bomber practicing his attack

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As investigators realized that all of the attacks were linked and that the bombs reflected a certain level of sophistication, they worried that the bomber would grow desperate and do something even more drastic.

They decided to take the unprecedented measure of using New York City’s emergency notification system — typically for major weather events — to alert people in the region that a dangerous suspect was on the loose. Shortly after 7 a.m., millions of people in the region received the notification to be on the lookout for Mr. Rahami.

Even as the police scoured the area near the restaurant, Mr. Rahami was seeking shelter from the morning rain under a doorway of a bar, Merdie’s Tavern in Linden, which is next to Elizabeth, trying to catch some sleep.

Around 10:30 a.m. the owner of the bar spotted a man sleeping in the doorway, officials said.

Capt. James Sarnicki of the Linden Police Department told reporters that an officer approached the man, later identified as Mr. Rahami, and when he woke him, he saw that he had a beard resembling that of the man on the wanted poster.

The officer ordered him to show his hands, Captain Sarnicki said, but instead, he pulled out a handgun, shooting an officer in the abdomen; the bullet struck his vest.

“The officer returned fire,” he said. Mr. Rahami fled, “indiscriminately firing his weapon at passing vehicles.”

Other officers joined the chase, and Mr. Rahami was shot multiple times. At least one other officer was wounded during the confrontation.

 Rahami was arrested on Monday after a shootout with police in Linden, New Jersey  


CreditChris Duffy


bomb that injured 29 people on Saturday in the Chelsea neighborhood of Manhattan, and another that failed to detonate, were filled with shrapnel and made with pressure cookers, flip phones and Christmas lights to set off a powerful explosive compound, law enforcement officials said on Sunday.  A second device on 27th Street that did not explode appeared to be filled with the same material, the official said.

The bomb in Manhattan was placed under a Dumpster made of heavy-gauge steel, and was powerful enough to catapult the metal box across the street.

The 29 people who were wounded mostly suffered cuts and abrasions. All who were taken to local hospitals had been released by Sunday morning.


The police hauled away the second bomb in a chamber called a “total containment vessel.”CreditSandra E. Garcia/The New York Times

Both bombs appeared designed to create maximum chaos and fatalities. They also provided a trove of clues.Late Sunday night, two law enforcement officials said that investigators stopped a car on the Belt Parkway near the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge and took five people to an F.B.I. office in Manhattan for questioning in the bombing investigation. One of the officials said that all or most of them may have been from the same family and that they may have been on their way to the airport.

Earlier, two senior law enforcement officials said there was a “person of interest” in the bombing, but it was unclear if that person had been identified. The person had been seen on surveillance footage.

Tensions in the region, already high, escalated on Sunday night when, according to J. Christian Bollwage, the mayor of Elizabeth, N.J., a backpack containing explosive devices — including pipe bombs — was found near that city’s train station. In trying to secure the devices, law enforcement officals, using robots, accidentally detonated one of the devices early Monday, he said. There were no injuries.

Senior law enforcement officials also said they were increasingly focused on the possibility that the attack was connected to a bombing that took place Saturday morning in Seaside Park, New Jersey.

Andres Kudacki/Associated Press



Edward Albee, widely considered the foremost American playwright of his generation, whose psychologically astute and piercing dramas explored the contentiousness of intimacy, the gap between self-delusion and truth and the roiling desperation beneath the facade of contemporary life, died on Friday at his home in Montauk, N.Y. He was 88.

Mr. Albee’s career began after the death of Eugene O’Neill and after Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams had produced most of their best-known plays. From them he inherited the torch of American drama, carrying it through the era of Tony Kushner and “Angels in America;” August Wilson and his Pittsburgh cycle; and into the 21st century.

In between, Mr. Albee (his name is pronounced AWL-bee,) turned out a parade of works, 30 or so in all, generally focused on exposing the darkest secrets of relatively well-to-do people, with lacerating portrayals of familial relations, social intercourse and individual soul-searching.

As Ben Brantley of The New York Times once wrote, “Mr. Albee has unsparingly considered subjects outside the average theatergoer’s comfort zone: the capacity for sadism and violence within American society; the fluidness of human identity; the dangerous irrationality of sexual attraction and, always, the irrefutable presence of death. That unsentimental insistence on our mortality may have been the biggest turnoff to New York theatergoers of the mid-20th century. Mr. Albee repeatedly dared to ask what most of us retire to the closets of our minds for as long as possible: the fact of our inevitable ends, and what it means for our tenuous self-importance.

“All of my plays are about people missing the boat, closing down too young, coming to the end of their lives with regret at things not done, as opposed to things done,” Albee said in a 1991 Times interview. “I find most people spend too much time living as if they’re never going to die.”

Image result for Reed and Frances Albee, of Larchmont, New York.



He was born in Washington, to Louise Harvey, and immediately given up for adoption. Aged 18 days, he was handed into the care of Reed and Frances Albee, of Larchmont, New York. Reed was the wealthy, womanizing son of the vaudeville theater-owner and manager Edward Franklin Albee, and Frances, better known as Frankie, was his third wife. It was rumored that she had married Reed for his money.

A dreamy child with a penchant for drawing and music, the young Edward may not have wanted for material wealth, but grew up an observant outsider in his own home, ignored by his monosyllabic father and reviled by his mother. “My mother and I disliked and mistrusted each other,” said Albee in an interview many years later.

“I think they wanted somebody who would be a corporate thug of some sort, or perhaps a doctor or lawyer or something respectable,” he told TV interviewer Charlie Rose. “They didn’t want a writer on their hands. Good God, no.”

In interviews he said he knew he was gay by the time he was 8, that he began writing poetry at 9, that he had his first homosexual experience at 12.

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A relatively young Edward Albee and his cat ‘Boy’

Albee was 20 when he left home after an argument. Apart from a chance encounter, he never saw his father again, and he had no further contact with his mother for 20 years, although she was regularly to appear in different guises in his plays.


Albee spent the next 10 years living in and around Greenwich Village, bolstered by the $25 a week interest payments from a trust fund he had inherited from his grandmother, and occasional work as a telegram boy for Western Union. The ordinary people he met while tramping the city, their desperation and loneliness, became the inspiration for The Zoo Story. But he was also moving in artistic circles, hanging with playwright William Inge  and the composers David Diamond, Aaron Copland. By 1952 he was living with, and in the shadow of, the talented young composer William Flanagan.

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Zoo Story


The Off Broadway theater was nascent, and he began attending plays in the Village — “You could go to the theater for a dollar!” he recalled — seeing the works of Beckett, Ionesco, Pirandello and Brecht.

His own writing was less than successful — he tried short stories and gave them up — and though he published a handful of poems, he gave that up, too… He added: “I knew I was a writer and had failed basically at all other branches of writing, but I was still a writer. So I did the only thing I had not done. I wrote a play. It was called ‘The Zoo Story.’ ” He completed “The Zoo Story” in two and a half weeks.

Mr. Diamond helped arrange the Berlin production — in German translation (“Die Zoo-Geschichte”) — and it was well-received. But in New York the play was rejected several times before the Actors Studio agreed to stage a single performance; afterward, Norman Mailer, who was in the audience, declared it “the best one-act play I’ve ever seen.”

When “The Zoo Story” opened for a commercial run at the Provincetown Playhouse in January 1960, reviews were mixed. (The Times’s Brooks Atkinson called it “consistently interesting and illuminating — odd and pithy,” though he concluded that “nothing of enduring value is said.”) But the positive ones were enthusiastic enough to turn him from an unknown into a hot young playwright who was being mentioned in the same breath as Beckett and Ionesco. America had its first avant-garde playwright in the European mode.

Mr. Albee became known as an exemplar of a new, convention-defying strain of playwriting. In an article in The Times with the headline “Dramatists Deny Nihilistic Trend,” Mr. Albee espoused the view that would become his credo: that theatergoers should be challenged to confront situations and ideas that lie outside their comfort zones.


Image result for The Zoo Story

The Zoo Story


In The Zoo Story, the middle-aged family man Peter is trying to read on a Central Park bench when he’s approached by a disturbed, voluble stranger named Jerry. Jerry needles Peter with intrusive questions before letting fly with a hilarious and terrifying stream of TMI that climaxes with “THE STORY OF JERRY AND THE DOG,”  a narrative about a vicious dog belonging to the landlady of the rundown boardinghouse he lives in. The man tries to win him over, then tries to kill him, and then, having failed at both, resigns himself to a wary and cold détente . “THE STORY OF JERRY AND THE DOG” goes on for six pages, which means the actor playing Jerry needs great breath-control and the actor playing Peter better be pretty good at listening. [Both an actor’s dream role and his challenge.–Esco]

His next three plays, also one-acts, were also successes Off Broadway: “The Sandbox” and “The American Dream, portraits of family dynamics etched in acid, and “The Death of Bessie Smith.” a fictionalized accounting of the blues great’s death after an auto accident.


Next was Mr. Albee’s Broadway debut, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” the famously scabrous portrait of a withered marriage;  it won a Tony Award in 1963 for best play, ran for more than a year and half and enthralled and shocked theatergoers.

[ Larissa MacFarquhar, New Yorker:  Set on the campus of a small American college, it is a carnival of wit in which George, a defeated middle-aged history professor, and his bitter, thwarted wife, Martha, use a young couple as foils for the dazzling cruelties they practice upon each other. Right from the start, the language is dense, complex, spoken very fast with breathtaking ferocity, as is the amount of alcohol the characters consume; and all of this, combined with the play’s length (nearly three hours) and the fact that it never leaves the living room, produces a claustrophobia so intense as to be nearly unbearable. There is no relief, no light entry, no gentle fade-out—it is all second act. Whereas George and Martha are brutal and abandoned…the young couple, an ambitious biology professor named Nick and his idiot wife, Honey, hold their marriage together with protective lies: Honey blew up; they quickly got married, and then she deflated. Nick pretends to Honey that he loves her; Honey says it is just bad luck that they have not yet had children. Later, Martha reveals she and George have a son. But the pair have invented “him,” a secret son not to be mentioned in public. George is now forced to  “kill” the imagined boy off. An imaginary or absent son was to become a recurring figure in Albee’s work.]




The reactions were virulent and disparate. Some critics were appalled:

“A sick play for sick people,” The Daily Mirror declared.

“Three and a half hours long, four characters wide and a cesspool deep,” said The Daily News.

But others were mesmerized and dazzled. A jury awarded it the Pulitzer Prize, but the Pulitzer advisory board rejected the recommendation, choosing not to give an award for drama that year; the jurors resigned in protest.



[Larissa MacFarquhar, New YorkerAlbee’s next Broadway drama was Tiny Alice, premiered in 1964 with John Gielgud and Irene Worth. It was greeted with such incomprehension that Albee found himself forced to hold a press conference to explain its meaning. But, even the author could not satisfactorily explain the bizarre story of a lay brother who is sent by a superior to the house of a wealthy woman and is enmeshed in a scenario of sexual hysteria, religious ecstasy and martyrdom. “Its tediousness, its pretentiousness, its galling sophistication, its gratuitous and easy symbolizing, its ghastly pansy rhetoric and repartee,” an enraged Philip Roth wrote in The New York Review of Books. “is so unconvincing, so remote, so obviously a sham—so much the kind of play that makes you want to rise from your seat and shout, ‘Baloney.’” Gielgud, so bewildered by it that he threatened to quit almost daily, implored Albee to cut down his nine-minute dying monologue because he had no idea what he was talking about, and had to be sustained by brandy. ]


Image result for delicate balance 1973


  NY TIMESBut Albee’s next, “A Delicate Balance,” produced in 1966, won the Pulitzer prize he had been unjustly denied for Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?  It probed an affluent family whose members reveal their deep unhappiness in shrewd and stinging verbal combat. 


Balance chronicles a series of intrusions, over the course of a weekend, into the unhappy married life of aging suburbanites Agnes and Tobias: their daughter Julia, whose fourth marriage is on the rocks, and Agnes’s sardonic, hard-drinking sister Claire. Most disturbing is the unexpected arrival of Harry and Edna, the couple Agnes and Tobias have long considered their closest friends.  As Harry and Edna tell it, they were just sitting at home alone when they got… scared. Indefinably scared. Too scared to stay in their house. And now they’d like to sleep over.

This remarkable set-up on Albee’s part—a near-retirement-age couple who are frightened like children of their own quiet house—is a textbook example of how he brought the European absurdist sensibility of Beckett, Ionesco and Pinter into the American living-room drama. But even more intriguing is where it leads. Harry and Edna push all boundaries of friendship, going as far as trying to move in with Agnes and Tobias, before caving under pressure from Julia and Claire to leave. In a private moment, Harry admits to Tobias that if their positions were reversed, he wouldn’t take Tobias and Agnes in. “You don’t want us, do you, Toby?” he asks.

Tobias’s breathtaking answer—explicitly described as an “aria” in the text—may be Albee’s greatest distillation of kindness and cruelty, as this long-emotionally-repressed man rails at his friend of twenty years:



Tobias’s cruelty, his disavowal of love for his oldest friend, is coupled with a yearning for connection that’s as moving as it is preposterous: Harry and Edna’s absurd presence in his house is an opportunity, a chance at some twisted version of community, at an end to a life of corrosive habit and isolation.


chaboneobaiarroyoallende: “ Edward Franklin Albee III…dramaturgo ”


Although Albee  kept writing plays and having them produced, most notably the death-watch drama All Over and his second Pulitzer-winner, Seascape (1975), a play in which two lizards intrude upon a marriage, his reputation was in free fall. Seascape ran for just two months. The disaster of The Man Who Had No Arms, about a man who sprouts a limb and achieves celebrity, only to see it wither as his arm atrophies, which closed on Broadway after just 16 performances in 1983, suggested that it was all over for Albee too. This began a period lasting until the early nineties, when he was persona non grata on Broadway. Further, his ability to write was affected by his love affair with alcohol, which had begun while he was still a child, when he would be asked to mix cocktails for his parents.

Larissa MacFarquhar, New Yorker:

Albee’s alcoholism left his finances floundering and he found himself deeply in debt. He even lost control of his work—sometimes he would write lines and not know what they meant. His life was saved, he says, by Jonathan Thomas—a sculptor and painter whom he met in 1971 at the University of Toronto, when Thomas was twenty-four and Albee was forty-three. Albee decided to stop drinking and smoking at the same time. He didn’t go to A.A.—he did it on his own, with the help of Antabuse, a drug that, if taken in combination with alcohol, makes you sick. “I have will,” he says.



It was not until 1991 that he had a late creative blooming and another theatrical hit with Three Tall Women. Like much of Albee’s best work, Three Tall Women was strongly autobiographical, drawing on his privileged but loveless childhood and memories of his mother, a domineering, beauty who preferred horses to people, and almost anyone to her adopted son.

Larissa MacFarquhar, New Yorker:

Things got so bad that, when Albee first started showing people “Three Tall Women,” which later won him his third Pulitzer Prize, nobody in New York wanted anything to do with it. It was produced first in Austria, and then by a small repertory company upstate, and only made it to an Off Broadway theater several years later. “Three Tall Women” involves a conversation between three characters, A, B, and C, who are Albee’s mother at three different ages: ninety-two (A), fifty-two (B), and twenty-six (C). As much as it says about Albee’s caustic, unsentimental mother, the play is also about times of life: the way that certainties grow flaccid and doubts hard; the difference between the cruelty of the old and the cruelty of the young.

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Eddie Redmayne and Jonathan Pryce in Albee’s ‘The Goat’ 


Albee continued to write plays and have them produced although he did not need to. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? had made him a wealthy man, and he was renowned as a discerning collector of 20th-century art. For the next 10 years, the focus of his life shifted from writing plays to teaching and encouraging younger playwrights. He was, by all accounts, a committed and generous teacher. Jonathan Thomas,his partner for 35 years, died in 2005.

There was another unexpected and late career gift in The Goat, or Who is Sylvia?, seen in New York in 2002, about a successful architect in an apparently happy marriage who falls in love with a goat and has passionate sex with it. The London production boasted a brilliant central performance from Jonathan Pryce and an early stage appearance from a young Eddie Redmayne as his gay teenage son, in a savagely funny and dark examination of the limits of tolerance and the monsters that lurk beneath the exterior of modern middle-class everyday life. It was every bit as powerful and harrowing as Albee’s masterpiece.


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In his best work Albee was always present and always painfully revealing of his lost childhood and the barren, unhappy lives of his parents and their friends, and the best and worst that lurks in all of us.

His strength as a playwright was that he continued to experiment with form and content all his life. A lazier, less passionate playwright might have contented himself with rewriting Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? in different ways, or just quit when the critical reception got rough. Albee may never have been able to summon the emotional openness to match Williams’s honesty, grotesque comedy and lyricism, nor the political commitment to match Miller’s state-of-the-nation acuteness, but he was no also-ran. Rather he was one of the triumvirate who changed and shaped postwar American playwriting. The Zoo Story, A Delicate Balance and Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? will never want for production; they dissect our desire to hide behind illusion with a devastating and unflinching accuracy.

Photograph: Mary Altaffer/AP, 2008




It has been more than five years since President Obama walked into the White House briefing room to (he thought) put to rest an issue that he—and most of the people around him—had thought was not an issue at all. The president released his long-form birth certificate in the hopes of finally discrediting the so-called “birther” movement. The theory, which claimed that Obama was born outside of the United States and therefore ineligible to be president, was itself born in the conspiratorial reaches of the Internet and later propagated by prominent figures such as none other than Donald Trump. Trump spent the lion’s share of early 2011 pushing the idea; his actions and claims paving the way for his entry onto the national political stage, and ultimately laying the groundwork for his presidential run.

For most people, even some once-skeptical Republican lawmakers, President Obama’s “revelation” that he was, in fact, born in Hawaii put an end to the debate. But on last  last week the idea reared its ugly head again. In an interview with the Washington Post‘s Bob Costa, the Republican nominee refused to say that Obama was born in the U.S., saying “I’ll answer that question at the right time. I just don’t want to answer it yet.” The non-confirmation/denial immediately created a political firestorm, one which Trump spokesperson Jason Miller tried to clean up on Thu by issuing a statement. But: As the nominee has previously claimed, his campaign saying something just isn’t the same as him saying something himself. Miller’s statement added a twist, too, giving Trump credit for bringing “this ugly incident to its conclusion” by “compelling” the president to release his birth certificate.

The truth is that Trump never definitively put the issue behind him after the birth-certificate release. But on Friday morning, he set out to do just that, holding a “press conference” (where he took no questions from reporters) at his new hotel in Washington, at which he promised to make a “big announcement.” After a prolonged series of remarks (all covered, for free, by the media) from Trump supporters, the nominee finally said it: “President Barack Obama was born in the United States. Period.” But Trump also couldn’t resist doubling down on a key (and untrue) claim from Miller’s statement, as well, saying that “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy. I finished it.”

Before Trump made his comments, Clinton told an audience of largely African-American women on Friday morning that her opponent owes Obama and the American people an apology for his role in birtherism, and that his campaign was “founded on this outrageous lie.” Later, President Obama—during a meeting with business leaders at the White House—told reporters that he was “pretty confident” about where he was born.

PHOTO: United States President Barack Obama makes a statement prior to vetoing H.R. 1735, "National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2016," in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington, Oct. 22, 2015.

Aude Guerrucci/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images