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A Delicate Balance

3.89 of 5 stars 3.89  ·  rating details  ·  1,278 ratings  ·  50 reviews
Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play; also winner of the 1996 Tony Award for Best Revival of a Play--is now available in a trade paperback edition. A dark comedy about unfulfilled lives, broken promises, and family jealousies.
Paperback, 192 pages
Published January 1st 1997 by Plume (first published January 1st 1966)
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A Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee WilliamsThe Crucible by Arthur MillerDeath of a Salesman by Arthur MillerThe Glass Menagerie by Tennessee WilliamsWho's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee
Best American Plays
89th out of 181 books — 252 voters
Hamlet by William ShakespeareMacbeth by William ShakespeareThe Importance of Being Earnest by Oscar WildeRomeo and Juliet by William ShakespeareA Streetcar Named Desire by Tennessee Williams
Best Plays Ever
215th out of 534 books — 687 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,066)
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This play reminded me of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf for all the obvious reasons—the biting sarcasm, the viciousness lying just below the surface of the faux pleasantries. The scope of the discomfort is a bit broader in this Albee play, though. Instead of the focus being solely on the married couple, other bystanders get sucked into the fray. There’s even a slap across the face in one scene, which is something I always get a kick out of. Face-slapping scenes are the best, aren’t they? Sometim ...more
Inspired by Albee's memories of his grotesque parents and drunken aunt, living in suburban luxury, he becomes stylized with a hint of Pinter and introduces a neighbor couple who seek refuge because of an unknown "threat." In this play about Nothing, Albee punctuates his themes of loneliness & refined confinement with savage talk. A lot of brandy in a dribble glass.
Very good writing. I disliked all the characters. I didn't know what the play was about, which is OK, but a critic's blurb on the cover stated it was about the nothingness in our lives. It did have that 60's, nihilistic, hopelessness feel to it, which I often like (Heller, Vonnegut), but these characters annoyed the crap out of me and made me want to suggest they get hobbies or go for a bike ride. Something.
K Brooks
"We do what we can...we keep it from falling apart"

Honestly, I could write essays and essays about this play and I've spent probably too much time trying to figure out how to write this review. I first saw a production of it about six months ago and I've been preoccupied with it since then - running so many of the lines through my mind so regularly. I've only recently purchased and read it, but having it in print has only made my attachment more intense. It's been a long time since I've come acr
If you like your plays full of self-obsessed, pitiful drunks, whining about the nothing was of existence and tearing each other apart with sarcasm, then you'll love this play.
Jan 09, 2008 Tung rated it 2 of 5 stars
Shelves: drama
According to the cover quotes, many consider this Albee’s finest work, but I prefer Zoo Story and Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf far more than this one. This play focuses on a upper middle class couple (Agnes and Tobias), their alcoholic sister (Claire), their daughter Julia (a serial divorcee), and their best friends Harry and Edna. The play unfolds over a three-day period where they trade barbs with each other about their dysfunctional lives, and the stifled existences each of them have been l ...more
CLAIRE: Is Julia having another divorce?

TOBIAS: Hell, I don't know.

CLAIRE: (Takes the glass.) It's only your daughter. Thank you. I should imagine--from all that I have...watched, that it is come-home time. (Offhand.) Why don't you kill Agnes?

TOBIAS: (Very offhand.) Oh, no, I couldn't do that.

CLAIRE: Better still, why don't you wait till Julia separates and comes back here, all sullen and confused, and take a gun and blow all our heads off? Agnes first--through respect, of course, then poor Juli
Feb 08, 2013 John rated it 3 of 5 stars
Shelves: play
Alluding to it's timelessness Albee is said to have changed only 2 lines before the 1996 revival. Though well struck, the play, as a whole, is dead; a post War, WASPy, booze-soaked relic of the past. A cocktail period piece that barely has the legs of a good chapter or two of Updike or Cheever; though Parker Posie was born to be cast as Julia and Shirley Maclaine would be a pitch perfect Claire.

If it's an untimely guest you're after, stick to Godot. Otherwise, Journey remains the singular Americ
A brief history of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama: No award was given in 1963 or 1964. In 1965, Frank Gilroy’s The Subject was Roses won the prize. In 1966, no award was given. In 1967, Edward Albee’s A Delicate Balance won the prize. In 1968, again no award was given.

Which is all to say: In the 1960s, only six plays were honored with Pulitzers, and the two honored during the “drought” both feature dysfunctional families. The Subject was Roses focuses on a lower-class family, A Delicate Balance on
A Delicate Balance by Edward Albee
Oh! What Lovely Guests!

This is an intriguing, dramatic and funny play. There is a word for that- tragicomedy.
On the surface, we have some fierce fighting, after all, there is even a pistol pulled out.
But underneath, together with the undertone of desperation, we could laugh at some of the things these people do.
First of all, we have a family, with Tobias and Agnes the father and mother of Julia. In the same household lives Claire, Agnes’ alcoholic sister.
At the
Rachelle Urist
A wonderful play. It's long but gripping. We read it in our playreading group. Despite the length (the play is "talky", and despite our readers who are hardly real actors, attention was rapt throughout. This play deserved the Pulitzer that it won in 1967. (In my book, not every Pulitzer prize winning play merited that honor.) These points notwithstanding, I gave the play 4, not 5 stars, because its literary merits, which deserve 5 stars, appeal predominantly to the intellectual.

Interesting that
Albee is a brilliant playwright with a theatrical mastery and talent that resonates with Samuel Beckett. The play is charged with malice and characters on the verge of nervous breakdowns. Their sanity is sustained by a delicate balance they try to keep as they face the madness of daily living, their haunting pasts and monotonous futures. That delicate balance is something we all try to manage subconsciously; keeping us just a few blocks away from the dark side.
I liked this more than I thought I would, you can really see a shift between the slightly more realistic 'virginia woolf' stuff and the weird later 'seascape' stuff. I really like that the plot is set in motion by the couple arriving simply because they are 'afraid'. That he doesn't feel the need to explain this. It's an important thing to realize, that you can just include a plot development like that and it doesn't require an explanation.
Albee is one of the best contemporary playwrights out there, if not THE best, and this is the best of the best. You should absolutely read or see Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, since that is known as his magnum opus, but I think this is actually a better play. It's beautiful and haunting and thought-provoking and touches on grand, universal themes yet holds Albee's originality.
More marital madness. Greater nuance than Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf? but not nearly as dementedly entertaining.
Mar 23, 2013 Tony rated it 5 of 5 stars
Shelves: drama
A DELICATE BALANCE. (1966). Edward Albee. *****.
This was a Pulitzer Prize winning play from this playwright that manages to explore the stresses and strains within family life, and the forces that are applied to keep things in balance – necessary for survival. Agnes and Tobias are a married couple in their late 50s. They have reached a point in their lives where they have lived more in the past than remains to them in the future. Agnes’ sister, Claire, lives with them. She avers that she is not
Joy H.
Added 5/8/13.

Last week I watched the film adaptation of the play, A Delicate Balance, by Edward Albee. I found the film to be very boring, despite the great cast.
Cast: Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Paul Scofield, Lee Remick, Kate Reid, Joseph Cotten, Betsy Blair

NETFLIX DESCRIPTION: "Part of the American Film Theatre series, Edward Albee's Pulitzer Prize-winning play gets the star treatment with Katharine Hepburn and Paul Scofield playing a long-married couple w
An incredible play that now makes me want to read the entire Albee canon. So many layers to the play and characters that I'm still thinking about, the writing is astonishing, the play itself is a gut punch. I sat down on night late prepared to read ten pages and instead read the first two acts---that's how good it is! I guess I see why it won a Pulitzer.
Adrija Ghosh
I came across this play in my Theater course in college this semester. The one thing that struck me throughout the play is the uneasiness between Tobias and Claire. A critical reading of the play and after much discussion with my professor, the scenario was clear- Claire is a rape victim and the "common" aspect between Tobias and Harry that Claire tried to point out is is practically this. The phrase "hot and wet July" made me think constantly about it and gradually the horrific aspect underlyin ...more
Far more nuanced and complex than "Who's Afraid.." and I adore "Who's Afraid." This is one of those rare books that could be read over and over again for a lifetime.
Charles Berman
Emotionally harrowing, exhausting, and revealing -- and violently funny. Old themes of love, fear, and obligation made violently immediate.
Dark touching.

For groups and men and women older woman
Very powerful

Fantastic male monologue

Dreary warning
Apr 04, 2008 Tara added it
Shelves: own, plays
bleak. depressing. I ran lights for a production of this play and halfway through the run one of the actors mentioned how draining it was to play, night after night, such an unhappy character in a play that is so tense from beginning to end.



Time happens, I suppose.

To people. Everything becomes…too late, finally. You know it’s going on…up on the hill; you can see the dust, and hear the cries, and the steel…but you wait; and time happens. When you do go, sword, shield…finally…there’s
I would like to see this performed now. I didn't find any of the characters likable, and yet I sympathized with all of them at some point.
Albee’s first Pulitzer Prize winning masterpiece. The themes of Loss, Fear, and Escape from Reality are so present that they are almost additional characters in Agnes and Tobias’s dilemma of what to do with Harry and Edna.
Can’t wait to see the Broadway revival tomorrow night with Glenn Close, John Lithgow, Martha Plimpton, Lindsay Duncan, Clare Higgins and Bob Balaban.
I saw the play and became interested in reading the script directly. I read a couple of other plays by Albee while I was at it. I loved the play performed and would like to see other versions of it but perhaps I will not re-read it. It has been awhile since I read this but I recall finding it somewhat challenging reading desperate people who keep talking about themselves. But the experience of friends who fled from their house or the man and his cat all seem real to me when I saw the play perfor ...more

I get what he's trying to do here, and I get why I'm supposed to be moved, but the abject nastiness of these characters toward one another was simply too much to take. While I think the play's comment on the fears both old and young have of aging and isolation is incisive--and just as relevant to day as it was forty years ago--these people are awful. Just grotesque.

This play is being performed on Broadway this year. I was nursing a pipe dream of somehow clawing my way there to see it. Now
Jane Susswein
Excellent -troubling.
Edward Albee is one of my favorite playwrights, and this play does not disappoint. The story involves an upper middle class, dysfunctional family that begins to crumble as the weight of alcoholism, divorce, age, and fear becomes too much for their already shaky home to stand. Albee's use of humor is subtle, but brilliant, and the drama cuts deep to something very personal in the reader. It is very deserving of the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award.
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Edward Franklin Albee III is an American playwright known for works including Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, The Zoo Story, The Sandbox and The American Dream. His works are considered well-crafted and often unsympathetic examinations of the modern condition. His early works reflect a mastery and Americanization of the Theatre of the Absurd that found its peak in works by European playwrights su ...more
More about Edward Albee...
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“Everything becomes... too late, finally. You know it's going on... up on the hill; you can see the dust, and hear the cries, and the steel... but you wait; and time happens. When you do go, sword, shield... finally... there's nothing there... save rust; bones; and the wind.” 3 likes
“we must have that put in Latin—We do what we can—on” 0 likes
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