Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, a descent into the dark, twisted world of George and Martha (Robert Fuller and Anna Pond '00), is not for the faint of heart. The couple's disordered living room (transplanted to the Leverett Old Library Theatre) is ground zero for stinging wit, viscous revelation and absolute psychological warfare. Within the confines of their house, nestled in a quiet New England college town, an associate professor of history and his wife, the daughter of the university president, create an alternate reality for themselves and all who enter. Their lives are a series of contests where as soon as a point is scored the rules change, often with devastating consequences. When an ambitious young biology professor named Nick (Jason McNeely '00), new to the college, and his wife Honey (Bilqis Hijjas '01) stop by for an after dinner drink, they inadvertently set off a long-overdue, climactic confrontation between the older couple. After twenty-three years of marriage, George and Martha declare war on one another, and it soon becomes clear that only one of them will survive the evening.
A large part of the fascination embedded in Albee's play is due to George and Martha's apparent inability to separate. Through their abject loathing, both of themselves and each other, it becomes clear that at the bottom of the humiliations and insults there is a bond far too strong for either of them to sacrifice. It is this same, inexplicable attraction which prevents Nick and Honey from withdrawing from the domestic battlefield before they too are wounded. In fact, until the final moments, it seems as though the unlucky visitors may receive the worst of George and Martha's spiteful insults; the older couple are long-since used to their relationship, treating each other's constant attacks as merely a game played with lies and half-truths. By the end of the evening, their stories and memories become so confused and contradictory that George is prompted to ask, "Truth or illusion, who knows the difference?" Indeed, the only truth in George and Martha's world is that which they choose to reveal to their befuddled guests, and most of that is no more than illusion.
With such a small cast (only four performers) and virtually no set, the strong staging that director Christine Nyereyegona '00 has created for this compelling psychological drama rests squarely in the believability of the ensemble. Robert Fuller is absolutely remarkable as George; his eerie detachment-occasionally overwhelmed by his suppressed anger boiling over-carries the action of the drama and most of the audience's sympathies. Anna Pound's Martha puts up a good fight, but is just slightly too shrewish to make her incessant complaints of George's failure sound convincing. Though interesting characters themselves, Nick and Honey are reduced to back seat passengers as George and Martha speed headlong toward one another.
The design of this production is minimal; the set design of Kris Kelly, while functional, pushes neither the actors nor the space in any profound direction. Much more interesting is the costume-design of Naeemah White-Peppers and Valerie DeCharette '02; from George's relaxed academia, clad in earth tones and corduroy, to Honey's prim and proper coordinated outfit or Nick's slick, ambitious look, each costume says something insightful about its respective character.
_Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?_ is both refreshingly dark and painfully funny. An exploration of possibilities that we are, understandably, reluctant to consider, the play calls upon us to simultaneously loathe, pity and identify with aspects of each of its characters. As we see more and more of our own petty, vindictive natures, self-delusionment, ambition and naivet played out on the stage before us, we come to understand this celebration of a love too strong to be destroyed and an anger too intense to be abandoned. When the final blackout comes, you _will_ be afraid.
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