Friday, September 28, 2012

First Preview - Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Thanks to the producer's invitation to blogger night, I attended the first preview of the new revival of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"   I have to say I'm feeling a little hung over this morning, and I'm sure it has nothing to do with the short Jack&Ginger I had pre-show.  

This 50th anniversary revival stars Amy Morton as "Martha" and Tracy Letts as "George."  Madison Dirks is "Nick" and Carrie Coon is "Honey."    It is directed by Pam MacKinnon with sets by Todd Rosenthal.

I was initially tempted to skip this production, which first opened at Steppenwolf in Chicago and then had a run at Arena Stagesin D.C. last year.   I felt I had already seen the definitive production in 2005, which starred Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin.   That experience, my first Albee, was perhaps the most powerful I've had in any theatre, any time.     But because I love all Albee plays and am loath to miss a production of any of his work, I couldn't resist seeing this conceipt.  

After all, Tracy Letts is a Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning playwright of August: Osage County, also, like this one, one of the greatest dramas ever written.   I had the chance to speak with him before the run of his play Superior Donuts and I remember learning that he was an actor first and began writing plays in which he would be interested in acting.   It feels full circle to me to have seen his masterpiece and then see him acting in this masterpiece. Furthermore, Amy Morton also co-starred in August: Osage County, so I knew it would be interesting to see what she would do with "Martha."

The outcome is a very organic rendering of Albee's masterpiece.  It's just as funny as I remembered, while being equally horrifying and gut-wrenching.   I felt the same apathy and empathy for these people as I did before and I still wanted to scream at the young people, "Just leave for Christ's sake!"  But they can't leave and are sucked into the embarrassment and vitriol of the sickening evening.  Even with the vitriol, these actors portayed a stunning brittleness and fragility.  The final catharsis was as welcome and as astonishing as ever.   And I was still left with the feeling that I don't know what the hell happened to these people.   It's an emotionally tense three hours. 

I am very glad that I took the opportunity to re-visit this play and am particularly glad that it was this production.   "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is playing at the Booth, with an opening on October 13th.  Tickets are available via Telecharge or on discount via Broadwaybox.

Cast interview video by fellow ITBA Member New York Theater:

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