Savaging Americana

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' Directed by Mark Morland At Dunster House through March 20

WHO'S afraid of Virginia Woolf' Mainly anyone who's eaten in Dunster House lately mid the unique set of props that have turned dinning into a perverse for form of mountain climbing. But anyone who's seen the show might well decide it would be worth eating a few meals standing up to see another play this good.

The key to this dramatic, success is as simple as presenting a good play well acted who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf' is the most provocative play by one of America's most iconoclastic playwrights. Edward Albee, whose latest play The Man Who Had Three Army begins previews on Broadway this week.

When Virginia Woolf opened in 1962, it put the theatrical community into a uproar. Assist partisans jumped to thrust Albee into the Arthur Mailer Eugene O'Neill Tennessee Williams axis of great American playwrights its detractors lambasted it with a passion that could only indicate that Albee had indeed hit a few raw nerves. One noted drama critic addressed the popular view that the play could not be ignored saving. That's right, there is no way that we can ignore danger and disease. But it is not right therefore to welcome the plague into our midst.

This "plague" of a play, admittedly, grinds up a few sacred cows and serves them for dinner. Just for starters, it realistically portrays a secure, middle-American marriage bound together not be love, but by hate. Martha Susannah Rabbi, an unhappy academic wife shiewishly taunts her younger husband for tailing to move up the academic, ladder at the small college where he teaches history, and where her Lather is president. Her husband George Christopher Keyser) retorts with pointed references to her accumulating years and alleged infidelities. Throughout, he refers to her in a variety of zoological references and at one point speaks of an imaginary child being the apple of their three eyes, Martha being a cyclops.

The occasion for the play is a late evening visit by a new biology professor clustin Richardson, and his insipid wife Honey (Caroline Isenberg) I accept for Martha's eventual seduction of Nick, there is little real action. In a quiet evening of domesticity, four respectable, middle class people tear each other to shreds. The actions is a powerful mix of lean Pam Sartre's bleakly existential No Exit and Mad Magazine indicated Snappy Answers to Stupid Questions.


Most simply the viewer joins in Nick and Honey's initial reaction of wanting to leave and not intrude upon Martha and George's venomous attacks on each other. Yet as George and Martha succeed in drawing their visitors into their vitriolic waltz, the audience is also drawn in.

ON a deeper level, it is hard to miss Albee's a indictment not of any one couple but of Western Society generally. The names George" and "Martha with their definite tone of American, cast aspersions on our first presidential couple. Albee admitted during an interview once that Nick is intended to suggest Nikita Krushchev, and Albee wastes no opportunity to refer to Nick as the proponent of a vast, homogenizing science, as George constantly asks him if he is involved in work with chromosomes and eugenics. In the climatic confrontation between George and Martha. Albee destroys a whole world of little lies and mythologies.

Rabb and Keyser shine throughout, giving us a George and Martha we can believe have been tormenting each other for 23 years. Keyser's George is properly sardonic and resigned, while Rabb's Martha transcends nastiness. When Rabb admits in the final lines that she is afraid of Virginia Woolf, we see a nasty and bitter woman afraid of the impending madness that led Woolf to suicide. Richardson plays a sturdy and naive Nick, while Isenberg seems to have fun with Honey's exaggerated dippiness. The scenery is basic suburban tawdry, but someone had the good sense to place a large liquor cabinet overpoweringly in the middle of the stage, so that the audience like the characters, see the action through the All-American prism of alcohol.

This first production of the Harvard Independent Theater, a new dramatic group without affiliation to an undergraduate House, is an auspicious start. They give us a tense and disturbing Virginia Woolf of which more than Dunster diners should be afraid.