A Delicate Balance, a play by Edward Albee, was first produced on Broadway at the Martin Beck Theatre on September 12, 1966, where it ran a respectable four months and won the author the first of his three Pulitzer Prizes.
The story revolves around the household of an old WASP couple (Agnes and Tobias) and the cohabiting Claire (Agnes' hard-drinking sister), who never passes up an opportunity to drink or to make a good joke at someone's expense (including her own). Their uneasy peace is disrupted first by the unexpected arrival of two old friends (Harry and Edna) -- fellow empty-nesters with free-floating anxiety who ask to stay with them to escape an unnamed terror -- and then by the arrival of their daughter Julia, whose fourth marriage has collapsed.
The text glitters with the customary Albee wit. For example, when Claire first enters, overhearing her sister Agnes' anger at her behavior, she apologizes. When Agnes condescendingly asks for what Claire is apologizing, Claire responds: "I apologize that my nature is such to bring out in you the full force of your brutality."
The cast of the premiere production, directed by Alan Schneider, was headed by established theater legend Jessica Tandy, her husband Hume Cronyn and the accomplished Marian Seldes, who won that season's Tony Award for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play. Tony Richardson's 1973 film version, part of the short-lived American Film Theater series, memorably starred Katharine Hepburn, Paul Scofield and Kate Reid. (Reid replaced Kim Stanley as Claire after Hepburn was appalled by Stanley's Method madness.) The 1996 Broadway revival, produced by Lincoln Center Theatre at the Plymouth Theatre, starred Rosemary Harris, George Grizzard and Elaine Stritch. All three lead actors were Tony-nominated (Mr. Grizzard won), and the production scored Tonys for Best Revival and Gerald Gutierrez's direction. It was well-received and ran six months.