When the red curtains of the Ahmanson Theatre rose, a cozy, warm, living room is revealed. Wooden floors, wooden bookshelves, wooden coffee tables, all constructed from the same medium brown wood, adding to the warm, homey feeling of the set.
Enter George and Martha (Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner), arriving home after a dinner party. And the Arctic winds begin to bellow.
Edward Albee's 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' is the story of a middle-aged couple that make each other miserable. Despite every obvious advantages of being married to the daughter of the president of a college, George has failed to move up the ranks of academia. Martha, his wife, never misses an opportunity to point out his ineptitude at never making good on his potential. Conveniently, George, in turn, never misses an opportunity to remind Martha that being her husband is a fate worst than death. They have a perfectly symbiotic relationship complete with nightly routine of belittlement, power plays and obscene amounts of alcohol.
However, on this fateful night, the couple finds themselves entertaining the new professor Nick, (David Furr) and his wife Honey (Kathleen Early), even as the night is well into the wee hours. The vast quantities of alcohol being consumed by the quartet effectively loosen the lips of all, and secrets begin to slip out into the open.
As late night slowly becomes early morning, the handsome new Biology professor reveals himself as, not only a climber who married the fragile Honey for money, but he also details rather brazenly, how he plans to infiltrate and assume himself into a permanent position at the college.
In the first act, the biting banter between George and Martha is clearly their routine. Although their discourse is hurtful and antagonistic, you can see each take the shot and let it roll off. However cutting the remark, it lands playfully. Yet somewhere in the course of this particular evening, someone crosses a line. Perhaps the mention of one failure in particular. Perhaps the suggestion of one infidelity too many. The stakes rise and before either of them knows what has happened, they are really trying to hurt each other, emotionally, and physically.
The play of four was well cast with Turner giving a strong performance as the sarcastic, insulting Martha. However, Bill Irwin's George makes a beautiful progression from a reluctant subordinate to a commanding dominant presence by the end of the play. David Furr was also great in his portrayal of Nick, the new beau who fought the entire evening to assume control of a situation he never had control over in the first place. Congratulations to Lighting Designer Peter Kaczorowski and Scenic Designer John Lee Beatty on a beautiful set collaboration.
Edward Albee's three act play provides a disturbing and guilty glimpse of the power structure within a relationship between two smart, yet emotional damaged people. It's a wonderful examination of the constant tug of war between two people who are supposed to be partners, and how volatile that balance is when 'the rules' within the relationship have been compromised.
Edward Albee's 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' runs now through March 18, 2007 at:
The Ahmanson Theatre at the Music Centre
135 North Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90012
For more information visit: http://www.centertheatregroup.org/
Photo Credit: Carol Rosegg