Sunday, November 4, 2012

'Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' Is 50

Amy Morton and Tracy Letts are a very capable Martha and George in “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Photos by Michael Brosilow.

BY TAMARA BECK

IT
seems that even love can be a blood sport.

In “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” all of that passion spills out into contentious combat. The play is in a 50th anniversary revival at the Booth Theatre through 24 Feb. 2013.

George (Tracy Letts) and Martha (Amy Morton) duke it out in a battle of words and booze over the course of one long night. Theirs is a perverse love story. (See video below of casting talking about production.)

George is an academic. “I know history,” he says mildly at one point. His wife, Martha, is the daughter of the college president. Just as they get home from one of daddy’s tiring faculty cocktail parties, Martha announces that they are expecting guests – a young couple, Nick (Madison Dirks) and Honey ( (Carrie Coon)). It’s unwelcome but not surprising news to George.

Martha tells George, convincingly, if wrongly, that Nick (Madison Dirks) is in the math department. The pride of Honey, Nick is actually the new biology professor. This seems to be a particularly poignant provocation for George, for him any information can be turned into a weapon. His milquetoast demeanor belies a rapacious wit.

Alcohol fuels the parlor games George and Martha play out in front of their bemused guests. “Humiliate the host” and “Get the guest” are not for the faint of heart. At first, it seems that the new guy in biology will not be able to rise to Martha and George’s challenge. But Nick is another one who should not be underestimated. He knows his way around academe.

Carrie Coon, Tracy Letts, Amy Morton and Madison Dirks in “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

George and Martha fight hard and dirty; their refined bickering is a whirlwind of recrimination. The vituperative dialogue in “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is extremely original and very funny. EA has raised invective to the level of art.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is a timeless classic of American theater. In its inaugural production in 1962, it won the Tony Award. The revival, ably directed by Pam MacKinnon and on Broadway via Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is on pace to once again garner honors.

Nick (Madison Dirks) proves that he can hold his own with George and Martha (Tracy Letts and Amy Morton) in “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Even after witnessing a number of productions of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” over the years, including multiple viewings of the 1966 film version starring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal and Sandy Dennis, this reviewer still finds “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” fresh and spunky.

TL and AM are more than in their element in portraying the sparring duo of George and Martha, but the young folks are excellent, too. This production is an event!

Visit http://www.virginiawoolfbroadway.com to learn more about “Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

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