January 6, 2011

George and Martha

Just before the holidays I was able to see Steppenwolf Theatre's current production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf starring Amy Morton and Tracy Letts. With it's theme, it's a pretty unusual production to see for the holidays.

The classic play by Edward Albee happens one night when a couple, George and Martha invite fellow academics Nick and Honey over to their house for post-party late night drinks. Nick and Honey are new to the university and George and Martha decide to extend their welcome to the new couple. Little did the young couple know what they were getting into. What follows is a horrifying night of drinking, insults and verbal rampage between their hosts. It bewildering how this new couple seem to be so fascinated with George and Martha while also being appalled by them. I guess it's like watching a train wreck, one couldn't just look away.

The play's title Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf is a play of words between the song Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf from the Disney cartoon Three Little Pigs and the name of the English novelist, Virginia Wolf. It deals mainly with the false realities and the co-dependent relationship between George and Martha exposed during that one night. One finds out that underneath all the verbal and physical attacks against each other, there is need and love for each other. It's a pretty sick relationship actually and I didn't find any sympathy towards these characters. In fact, if I were Nick and Honey, I would have left after that first outburst and wouldn't come back!

Though I didn't relish the theme of the play, that doesn't mean I didn't appreciate it. It's great writing. I do however, wonder what goes on in Edward Albee's mind to come up with a play such as this.

It's a huge kudos to the ensemble cast of Amy Morton (Martha), Tracy Letts (George), Madison Dirks (Nick) and Carrie Coon (Honey) for making me squirm uncomfortably in my seat. They bounced verbal fireworks off each other that I was caught off guard. I couldn't believe what was unfolding in front of me. They were so committed and every so convincing. Carrie Coon plays a really good drunk and one could see anger brewing in Amy Morton's eyes just before she would lash out. Tracy Letts has a more quiet and understated build up to a boil as George. It's such a great and cohesive production that I'm glad more people will be able to see it. As announced, it will also play at the Arena Theatre in DC from Feb. 25 to April 10, 2011 for their Albee Festival. Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf current plays at the Steppenwolf Theatre until Feb. 13, 2011.

Some photos I took that night:

Steppenwolf's Regional Theatre Tony Award (this might be the closest I get to a Tony ha!)

Steppenwolf's National Arts Medal


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