With a limited run and a famed history on stage and in film, as well as prestigious lead actors, tickets for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? are in demand this season. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf has been extended for an additional month, and NewYork.com is your destination for tickets through its new scheduled end on March 24.
The compelling revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
also marks the revival of something very simple on Broadway: the written word. Beyond the acting, the set and the clinking bottles of gin, it’s Edward Albee’s remarkable script that really hits home. And even more impressive is that the 50-year-old script makes this kind of an impact in this era of big Broadway and its flying stuntman and digital effects.
The Steppenwolf Theatre Company’s emotionally taut production opened on October 15, 2012, at the handsome Booth Theatre, on the 50th anniversary of the show’s debut on Broadway. The original 1962 Tony Award-winning play starred Uta Hagen and George Grizzard; a much-lauded 2005 revival featured Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin. And this production, transferred here from Chicago, stars Amy Morton (Broadway shows: August: Osage County
and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
) as the sharp-tongued yet mournful Martha; and Tracy Letts, whose vicious mind games reveal his own self-diagnosed failings as a man, and as a husband.
Letts is as much a master on stage as he is behind it: He won a Pulitzer Prize as the playwright of August: Osage County
. Morton throws herself (quite literally, sometimes) into the role, but it’s Letts who the critics are hailing. New York Times
theater critic Charles Isherwood said, “The revelation here is the performance of Tracy Letts, making an electrifying Broadway debut…” and “Mr. Letts brings a coiled ferocity to George that all but reorders our responses to a play that many of us probably thought had by now vouchsafed all its surprises.”
Humor laced with tragedy sums up Albee’s famous play. It’s a storyline that has stayed devastatingly potent through the decades, in which the wounds of marriage are laid bare on stage. George and Martha stumble home at 2am from a university faculty party. “Make me a drink,” demands Martha, and from here, the “fun and games” begin, marked by spiteful verbal volleys that would put a presidential debate to shame. As Martha says bitterly, “Oh, I like your anger. I think that's what I like about you most. Your anger.”
The set does what sets should do: Cradle but not overshadow the action. “What a dump,” says Martha as the play opens. And it is: Sloppy piles of papers and books, a sagging couch, photos hung askew. The one corner that gets all the attention is the bar, with a forest of bottles that glows under stage lights. The action appears sloppy and accidental – everyone’s drunk, after all – but in fact it’s tightly choreographed and impeccably directed by the talented Pam MacKinnon. In a gripping moment, George walks determinedly into the living room with a rifle. Amid gasps and screams from the others, he points and shoots. But instead of a bullet, an umbrella sprouts out of the end. It’s a perfect metaphor for Albee’s withering commentary on allusion and illusion.
In short (or, rather, in long, since the play clocks in at over three hours, with two intermissions), Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
tackles the themes of life: It’s a battle of the sexes, of old age and youth, of money and not having money and of procreation and miscreation.
Rounding out the cast is Madison Dirks as the young biology professor Nick, with an unflappable boyish composure that soon disintegrates; and Carrie Coon as his wife, the “slim-hipped” Honey, whose giddy descent from perky drunk to vomiting mess would be funny if it wasn’t so tragic.
The October 15 opening night climaxed with an appearance by the ailing 84-year-old Edward Albee – and if there’s one reason to go to this revival of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
, it’s because this may be the last time you can see the playwright’s defining play on Broadway while he’s still alive.
Did you know?
For many Albee fans, there’s only one George and Martha: Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, in the 1966 film. The movie was in the running for an astonishing number of awards: It was nominated for thirteen Academy Awards, making it the only film to date to be nominated in every eligible category at the Oscars. Elizabeth Taylor won the Oscar for best actress, while Sandy Dennis won for best supporting actress.
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