Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is probably one of the best dramas on Broadway. Some year ago, I saw the movie starring: Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton (Martha and George), Sandy Dennis and George Segal (Honey and Nick). I remember little about the movie so the play was pretty much brand new for me. Although this cast was quite unknown to me, it certainly didn’t detract from giving a more than superb performance.
Martha (Amy Morton), a large boisterous woman, 52 looking somewhat younger. Ample, but not fleshy. George (Tracy Letts), her husband , 46. Thin, hair going gray. Honey (Carrie Coon), 26, a petite blond girl, rather plain. Nick (Madison Dirks), her husband, 28, blond, well put together, good-looking. The set takes place in the living room of a house on the campus of a small New England college.
I understand that the original play was performed by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company and this is exactly where the present cast of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is coming from (at the Booth Theatre through February 24th).
Act I is entitled “Fun and Games”. George and Martha have just come from an event on campus. In spite of the lateness, they have invited guests. Here is where we get that both George and Martha are alcoholics. In fact everyone is going to drink and most will get drunk. First big laugh. Guests Honey and Nick ring the bell. Argument (there will be just about as much arguing as booze) as to who will answer door. Just as George flings open the door, Martha, simultaneously yells, “F**K YOU!
There is an in-joke about the event that they came from singing, “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf” (vs. big, bad wolf). In actually, the meaning turns out to be, “who’s afraid of to live without illusion.” Throughout the play, illusion seems indistinguishable from reality.
It is difficult to tell which of Martha and George’s stories about their son or George's past are true or fictional. The same seems to be with Honey and Nick’s lives. Nick married Honey for money, rather than love and although he appears to be strong he is impotent. Honey has been deceiving him by using birth control to prevent pregnancy. She “poofed” up as if she was pregnant but it was not real.
The games that they play are called Humiliate the Host, Get the Guests, and Hump the Hostess. There are definite points of comic relief in this drama of love/hate between Martha and George. If the subject of emotional abuse bothers you, by all means, this is not your cup of Long Island Iced Tea. However, if you can get past it, this classic is performed so well, that the three hours (with two intermissions) can certainly be enjoyed thanks to Director Pam MacKinnon.