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Virginia Woolf' Adds Up to Fine Entertainment
By Roy Berko
Member, American Theatre Critics Association
Edward Albee's play WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? opened on Broadway on October 13, 1962. That same month, the world seemed poised on the edge of a nuclear war when the United States faced off against the Soviet Union over
Interestingly, though the play is considered to be one of modern America's classics, the script did not win the Pulitzer Prize. The committee actually selected it as the winner. However, the award is overseen by Columbia University, and the trustees decided that the explicit language, interest in "taboo" subjects, and controversial public reception made it the wrong choice. Nonetheless, it won the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Tony Award for Best Play that year.
In this era of Jerry Springer and similar television shows which are embraced by the public, the profanity and hateful words between George and Martha that so shocked audiences in the 1960's, now seems commonplace.
The story concerns the relationship between George, a history professor, and his wife, Martha, the daughter of the college's president. It depicts a series of battle games with escalating stakes upon which George and Martha have built their marriage. The proceedings encompass a young couple, Honey and Nick, who are guests in the house.
Director Neil Thackaberry, in a master stroke of interpretation, decided to pull away from the oft-used device of George and Martha constantly shouting at each other. Instead, using a clue from the script in which the characters comment on the fact that they are "numbed enough," he chose to have them underplay their lines. This is not to say the venom is not present. Much like snakes, the couple strikes quickly and often, subtly, with deadly results.
Susanna Hobrath shrilly whines her way through the role of Nick's wife Honey, making her spaced out rather than pathetic.
Robert Stegmiller's light and set designs are excellent.
Actors' Studio should be justly proud of their mounting of WHO'S AFRAID OF
WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF runs through April 21 at Actors' Summit, 86
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