Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Burnside Players Inc

The Ballroom, Burnside Town Hall. 7 Sep 2012

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of the American masterpieces of Broadway before the mass-marketing of musicals took over the tourist trade on that famous street.  In 1962, playwright Edward Albee took risks, and while he won the Tony and the Drama Critics’ Circle award for best play, Albee missed out on a Pulitzer Prize due to foul language and sexual themes.  From the perspective of 2012, it’s a tempest in a teacup, but the awesome power of the play is still there in spades.  You must have seen the hugely successful 1966 movie starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, whom many say were playing out their marriage via the script.  No?  I’ll fill you in a bit, then.  Martha and George invite Honey and Nick to their house for after-party drinks at the bewitching hour of 2 am.  It’s a long day’s journey into night as Martha and George perform their destructive psychological games for the visitors – both to twist the knife into each other and to perversely entertain themselves by shocking the guests.  There is a particular vulnerability to be aware of, and its explosive revelation counts as the climax of the play.

Director Barry Hill and his cast build the electric tension in the first half hour of this theatrical martial marathon and keep it on high voltage without let-up.  It’s not an easy play to watch and the audience – myself included – were just as captivated and fascinated by the verbal and sometimes physical combat of Martha and George as were the hapless Nick and Honey.

Leads Brant Eustice and Tracey Walker were extraordinary and provide cringingly realistic performances under the difficult conditions of an increasingly thick alcoholic haze.  There is skillfully overlapped dialogue and they made the constant and rapid changes in character status spine-tingling.  Alan Fitzpatrick and Tallora DiGirolami looked so much like unassuming shark bait for Martha and George upon their entrance as Nick and Honey, you felt sorry for them.  DiGiorlami especially fulfilled her role as a hick and her Honey’s descent from sobriety was great.  The four of them provided seamless ensemble performances.

I highly recommend you see this show, even if it is like watching in slow motion a car accident that you know will end in fatalities.  A big bravo!   

David Grybowski

When: 7 to 15 Sept
Where: Burnside Town Hall Ballroom
Bookings: trybooking.com