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Marian Seldes death: Five notable stage performances

Marian Seldes death: Five notable stage performances
Stage actress Marian Seldes, shown in 2004, died Monday at 86 in New York. (Los Angeles Times)

Marian Seldes, the venerated stage actress who died Monday at 86, was a singular theatrical presence whose most notable performances were in plays by Edward Albee.

Tall and angular, with patrician looks and intense eyes, Seldes was very much New York theater royalty. Her looks made her an ideal muse for Albee, whose plays dissect the inner lives of upper-class WASPs. Their decades-long collaboration culminated in 1994 in Albee's "Three Tall Women."

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Seldes took the occasional screen part, but she remained a creature of the stage for her entire career. Albee told The Times in 2004, "I think she's better at characters that are a little bit off-center. I don't mean that in any bad sense, but not your usual person. She has a wonderful extravagance to her."

Here are five of Seldes' most notable stage performances, from four different decades:

"A Delicate Balance": A young Seldes made her mark playing serial divorcée Julia in the 1966 Broadway premiere of Albee's domestic drama. For the part, Seldes won her only competitive Tony Award, though she would be nominated a total of five times.

"Deathtrap": Ira Levin's twisty mystery opened on Broadway in 1978 and was a smash hit, running for more than four years. Seldes, in the role of Myra, famously never missed a performance, earning her a place in the Guinness Book of World Records.

"Three Tall Women": Seldes' relationship with Albee continued with the playwright's comeback drama for which he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1994. Seldes played a woman in her 50s in the off-Broadway run at the Vineyard Theatre. Later, she revisited the play at the Mark Taper Forum in Los Angeles in 1996, playing the role of the nonagenarian.

"The Royal Family": Seldes came to the Ahmanson Theatre in L.A. in 2004 for a production of the classic play, which is loosely based on the Barrymore acting clan. Seldes had performed different productions of the play over the years, and was taking on the part of matriarch Fanny Cavendish.

"Deuce": Seldes' final Broadway production was this 2007 comedy from Terrence McNally that paired the actress with Angela Lansbury. The two veteran stars played former tennis partners who reunite to air their personal differences. Three years later, Seldes received a special Tony for lifetime achievement.

Twitter: @DavidNgLAT 

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