Outside the walls of the house looms an equally terrifying if less readily definable menace that draws Agnes and Tobias’s friends Edna and Harry into their home to seek haven as well. After eating dinner at their own home, they suddenly and unaccountably became frightened and can no longer endure remaining alone in their house. Agnes offers them Julia’s room for the night, and they retire. What troubles Edna and Harry is an overwhelming meaninglessness, a realization of the “absurd,” a glimpse of the existential void.
Other playwrights treated similar themes in the decade preceding A Delicate Balance. What Albee did was to domesticate this theme, presenting a more affluent American setting and characters from whom, presumably, primarily middle-class theatergoers in the United States would feel less estranged and by whom they would be at least initially less discomfited.