George and Martha. The two names today tend to evoke images of W. Bush and Stewart—as opposed to the warring spouses in Edward Albee’s 1961 sadomasochistic marital drama, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” But maybe the extreme personalities of both Georges and Marthas aren’t all that far apart, loaded up with weird hostility, crushing paranoia and a tendency to play God. The Court Theatre revival, an engrossing, exhausting three-and-half hours directed by Court artistic director Charles Newell, takes place on set designer Jack Magaw’s shambling, rambling old house where George, Martha and their late-night guests, Nick and Honey, knock against the walls, the furniture and each other, like players in a human pinball game where points are scored based on how much earth is scorched. And there’s plenty of alcohol fueling the fire, so much so that it is this detail in particular that gives Albee’s play such a surreal quality: Well past the point when they all should be passed out in a collective pool of vomit, this foursome jabs at one another until the humbling light of dawn breaks through the lace curtains. “You could go back to your wife all ruff-freshed,” warbles Barbara E. Robertson’s middle-aged Martha as she makes a pass at the much younger Nick (Lance Stuart Baker in an unformed performance and the one weak link in the production). As George, Kevin Gudahl is in full-on Mount St. Helens mode, thoroughly in control and then, just as quickly, completely out of control. You never quite sense what it is about George’s personality that has marked him as a professional failure, but it is an arresting performance nonetheless, one I had not expected from this actor. And rounding out the quartet is Whitney Sneed as Nick’s naïve wife, Honey, a memorable blend of anxiety with yet more anxiety. It’s well worth the trip to Hyde Park just to see that. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.