Edward Albee's derisive, acerbic and witty 1962 play 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?', now starring Tracy Letts and Amy Morton, has undergone a re-vamp and a re-debut at the Booth Theatre on Broadway, celebrating exactly 50 years since its original opening. Directed by Pam McKinnon, this version draws on a down to earth and disturbing approach to the play.
The unfolds in three acts, dissecting and probing the dysfunctional American marriage that Albee envisions for the great nation. George and Martha, a middle aged couple; George a history professor and Martha the daughter of the College president, play host to another couple Nick: a new biology lecturer at the college, and Honey his young wife. The night spirals downhill as it becomes increasingly alcohol fuelled and the dysfunctions in George and Martha's relationship play out in their own inter-play performance to Nick and Honey, which is at best full of vicious, scathing words and at worst physically violent.
Reviewers of this new Broadway version have praised Letts hugely. The New York Times said he “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” and the Chicago Tribune says Lett has “the performance that dominates this production”. Morton apparently makes you “deeply care for Martha, making you feel what you feel when you watch any friend trying to deal with a passive-aggressive spouse,” which is firstly no mean feat, and secondly, surely: the prime concern for an actor or actress- to make your audience feel.
This current production opened 50 years to the day that Albee’s “landmark drama” first opened on Broadway. The action of the play takes place in the living room of a history professor and his wife. With another couple visiting for the evening, and plenty of liquor to hand, a battle of wits ensues and marital tensions rise to the surface. When they play debuted 50 years ago, it marked Albee as one of the most important American playwrights of his time.
Saturday’s opening night performance, however, rubber-stamped Tracy Letts’ acting talent, five years after winning a Tony Award and a Pulitzer prize as a playwright. Under Pam McKinnon’s direction, the New York Times remarked that Letts brought “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.”
Continue reading: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf: Tracy Letts’ Acting Prowess Confirmed