“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is on the edge right from its first moments: a drunk and boisterous Martha (Bonnie Grant)and her husband George (Director Jim Rowlands) have just returned from a faculty party at the university where George teaches history and Martha’s father is the president. Martha isn’t quite ready to stop partying and announces that guests are coming—guests ‘Daddy’ wants George and Martha to be nice to.
The guests are Nick (Dan Ruppel), a young biology professor and his wife, Honey (Katryn Broido). And arrive they do, in the midst of a fierce exchange between Martha and George. But the young guests are eager to please and make the most of this opportunity to get to know other faculty members and their wives. Drinks are poured and the civilities observed. Martha continues to be a loose cannon and her behavior becomes increasingly outrageous as she flirts with Nick. The liquor continues to flow and as different groups are alone in the living room personalities, pasts, secrets, and fears are revealed. Photo right: Cast. Copyright 2010 Action Arts Theater Company.
Alone with Nick, George attacks him verbally with a cruel, intellectual, aloof deconstruction of Nick, his wife Honey, biology, the university and civilization in general. George and Martha continue to spar and even have a laugh or two together. Honey is ultimately overwhelmed by the intense atmosphere and becomes ill and then gets drunk.The party descends into some insidious parlor games which include ‘Humiliate the Host’.Part of this game consists of Martha’s attempt to seduce Nick.
Director Jim Rowlands (George) has assembled an excellent cast in a finely detailed, cleverly paced, taut production. Everyone speaks with great clarity and precision—a plus in a play in which grammar and word usage are seriously discussed. Playwright Edward Albee is, in fact, known to be a stickler about grammar.
As the endless rounds of drinks, civil conversation, verbal barbs, attacks, retreats, jokes, flirtations and games goes on and on, fear is at the center of it all: fear of failure (real or imagined) and fear of impotence (real or imagined).
Katryn Briodo’s Honey is upbeat and eager to please but fragile and confused in the midst of the cruel games. She does a great job falling apart and then trying to shore herself up with brandy. Dan Ruppel as Nick does a nicely calibrated descent from the young professor eager to fit in to a drunken stud ready to hop into bed with Martha.
Bonnie Grant as Martha is fascinating and fearsome to watch as she careens from flirty to bitchy to manipulative to sexy to cruel to pouty to lost and needy and back again. She caps it all with an amazing revelation to Nick about her relationship with George. Beautifully done.
Director Jim Rowlands as George is a man simmering with fury and frustration. He can meet Martha blow for blow verbally. Otherwise, his only outlet for the fury seems to be unleashing his razor sharp intellect and acid tongue on many subjects. Rowlands does an excellent job indicating the turmoil inside George and when George finally raises his voice to Martha,it is terrifying.
‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’: Martha, George, Nick and Honey. When Martha and George arrive home from the faculty party, things are bad. You wonder how much worse they can get. Answer: a lot. But the face of fear is revealed as well as the many ways it can sneak up on us.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Edward Albee. Director: Jim Rowlands
Cast Martha: Bonnie Grant ;George: Jim Rowlands; Nick: Dan Ruppel; Honey: Katryn Briodo.
January 15-16 & 22-23, 2010 at 8pm. Action Arts Theater Company 439 Ashbourne Ave. Cheltenham, PA 19012. Directions: 215-379-4660 or visit website www.actionarts.net Tickets: $15.00, $12.00 (Seniors 55+), $12.00 (Online advance sales) Tickets available online through www.ticketleap.com , at the box office or reservations by phone: 1-888-715-5589 For tickets and more information, go to: www.actionarts.net