Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf"

Watched this afternoon the Steppenwolf's production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? A colleague described the attacks that husband George and wife Martha direct against each other as corrosive. And she is right. But I was surprised by how moving and tender were some of the quieter moments of the play. The couple need each other as much as they hate each other. George (Tracy Letts), who married the daughter of his college president, is a coward and a failure as far as his wife is concerned, but she needs his need for her, her need exacerbated by her fear of abandonment. Martha (Amy Morton), who is alcoholic, is emasculating in her taunts, but George wants to be punished for his obscure guilt over the deaths of his parents.

Their love-hate relationship is played out in the form of horrendous games in front of their guests Nick (Madison Dirks) and Honey (Carrie Coon), games like Humiliate Your Host and Hump Your Hostess. When Martha breaks the rule of one of their games by telling Honey about their imaginary son, George kills the son by making him drive and crash into a tree. The son, the bond that holds the couple together for so long in love and hate, becomes the casualty of the long night. The ensemble acting was uniformly superb. Pam MacKinnon directed this production at the Booth Theatre.

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