It isn’t often that an iconic stage work that even every high schooler knows inside and out receives an overhaul so fresh that the work sounds as if it were written yesterday, but such is the case with director Anthony Page’s production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Albee has always been very protective of his most groundbreaking and celebrated play, and in fact, this production is only its second Broadway revival in forty-five years. No longer the novice playwright who had to buckle under to movie mogul Jack Warner’s demands that the biggest movie stars on the planet at the time—Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton—star as the leads of the film version, Albee is now a bona fide living legend who can call all the shots, and in this production, which went to the West End and has been touring the country following its Broadway run, he handpicked everyone from the director to all four cast members. From the moment that Kathleen Turner’s Martha comes in and utters “What a dump!” and Bill Irwin’s George does his best to introspectively bait her with bland banter, you have the queasy yet fascinating feeling that you are eavesdropping on a real couple in a take-no-prisoners war of wits that is often as funny as it is unnerving. By the time Kathleen Early’s Honey and David Furr’s Nick come by, we voyeuristically feel their horrified fascination with this booze-drenched, no-holds-barred “truth or illusion” blood fest that they eventually get dragged into as all-too-eager participants. Irwin’s Tony Award-winning performance is especially mesmerizing in its hollowness, a classic soliloquy such as George’s “bourgon” escapade truly sounding as if it were being uttered as part of actual discourse for the first time in your presence. There is little in the way of slurred speech and screaming, for these are real people rather than caricatures, not the drunken louts that all too often George and Martha have become. This is a performance so perfected that it doesn’t seem like a performance at all. In fact, during the break, audience members take deep breaths and look at their watches to be called back to reality since most of us could have sworn that it really was the middle of the night and that we, too, had been at George and Martha’s “party.” (Dennis Polkow)
This production is now closed.