It started as a simple dinner with friends, and gradually deteriorated into a night of shouting, humping, murder and madness. You won’t understand what that means until you see the reality behind George and Martha’s illusions. If you haven’t seen Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf in person then you haven’t truly experienced the madness.
Yes, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is still touring all across the United States, and perhaps in a city near you. It may well have been decades since you’ve last seen the story unfold, and you’re probably thinking of the classic 1966 films with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton. While it’s hard to imagine topping these two manically great performances, the true brilliance of this story is in the dialogue and subtext, as written by Edward Albee. It is definitely worth another viewing, as each new production you can enjoy different “flavors” of interpretation from a brand new cast.
For example, consider that in the new 2004-2011 tour, the play has been performed by the likes of Kathleen Turner (as Martha) and Bill Irwin (as George). Irwin’s part was so masterful he even won a 2005 Tony Award for his retreaded and yet powerful role. New actors in these roles don’t channel Burton and Taylor–they truly make the part their own, they usurp the identity and leave a part of themselves in George or Martha.
The latest production of the play was by Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of the original production’s opening night, so make your plans to be there, to take part in George and Martha’s madness. In newer productions, lesser-known Hollywood names play the roles, which allows for a brand new experience. Mostly recently, veteran actors Amy Morton and Tracy Letts have taken up the roles and have earned the respect of Edward Albee.
Make no mistake, Albee is not one to sit back and collect residuals. The playwright has often times rescinded permission to have his works performed. Therefore, each time you see a production, rest assured it has the blessing of one of the 20th century’s greatest playwrights.