If you cherish theatre for everything it can be and do, donât miss LCTâs Whoâs Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
I suppose every medium has its strengths, and for better or worse, film has the advantage of pervasiveness. For anyone who has not seen Whoâs Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Edward Albeeâs first enormous success) performed onstage, the 1966 movie featuring Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton, George Segal, and Sandy Dennis is probably what leaps saliently to mind. Perhaps better known for pyrotechnics than pathos, it was a noble effort on the part of newcomer Mike Nichols, who must have struggled mightily to get most of the content past the censors. Nichols did everything he could to bring the upshot of Woolf to the screen (avoiding travesties like the film version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and it was a powerful, enervating piece, if ultimately somewhat famished.
Lakeside Community Theatre (in The Colony) is currently featuring Albeeâs nightmarish descent into toxic marital recreation through August 25. Itâs worth the excursion to witness this excruciating, merciless tragedy of an older couple, whose intense love for one another is eclipsed by the need to dominate and conquer. Peppered with punchy, tortured, jaundiced humor, Whoâs Afraid of Virginia Woolf? drags us through an interminable, compulsive, black night of the soul in which George and Martha rope an unsuspecting younger couple, Nick and Honey, into an abysmal romp where guests are essentially, sacrificial lambs. Director Amanda Carson Green manages this dangerous territory with keen pacing and observation, collaborating with a cast that should win Olympic Medals for Demanding Theatre : George (David J. Wallis) Martha (Dena Dunn) Nick (Alejandro Sandoval II) and Honey (Laura L. Watson). LCTâs Woolf is harrowing and glorious in the way that only live theatre can be, and the actors will astonish you with their raw, fearless, insane voodoo therapy and unflagging stamina.
Edward Albee has a flair for juggling male and female archetypes, and including key events that happen offstage. Honey is a fatuous, simpering Blonde. In the third act, Martha bewails her role as Earth Mother and later, she and George taunt Nick, explaining he must be either Houseboy or Stud, that is : Eunuch or Breeder. Albee uses these crude stereotypes (simplistic as they are) to show how profoundly they impact American culture, and the institution of marriage. Through all the erudition and affectation, elemental metaphors of virility, timidity, sexual conquest and self-loathing continue to plague us at the very core. There is no compromise in George and Marthaâs turbulent attachment, only contempt for weakness and a sort of blunted cannibalism.
In Act One, Martha relates an anecdote in which she âplayfullyâ puts on boxing gloves and punches George, knocking him unconscious. George describes an incident where a young man unwittingly kills his father in an a car crash. We never see these incidents, yet George and Martha behave as if they happened only yesterday. Albee has a penchant for leaving some of the most disturbing content off-stage. Of course, Woolf begins in the earliest hours after midnight, and the characters fuel themselves with heavy drinking, jabs, jibes, confrontations and head games until the sun finally rises. After awhile, the storytelling, the explosions, the viciousness, the cathartic weeping, all blend into a cataclysmic, hypnotic montage. Itâs like seeing every fight your parents ever had, packed into one evening, and itâs far beyond overwhelming. If you cherish theatre for everything it can be and do, donât miss LCTâs Whoâs Afraid of Virginia Woolf?