Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Written by Edward Albee
Directed by Jason Rosencranz
At the Lowell House JCR
THE cast and crew of the Lowell House Drama Society production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have nothing to be afraid of because they have produced a terrific show.
The play tells the story of two couples, George and Martha, and Nick and Honey. Nick is a new professor at the university where George teaches and where Martha's father is president. Martha invites Nick and Honey to her home for dinner. In the course of the evening, slightly-left-of-center Martha and George pull unsuspecting Nick and Honey into the tangled web of their confused love-hate relationship.
Most of the acting in this show proves to be consistently superb. Both Heather Gunn (Martha) and Michael Starr (Nick) give tremendous performances.
Martha is a loud-mouthed, overbearing alcoholic, and Gunn plays her well. Martha loves George, but she is disappointed with his lack of ambition, and as result she relentlessly degrades him publicly and privately. Gunn plays her nag role to the hilt. Her screams of "George" are perfectly annoying, her menacing looks towards him pack a lethal force, and when she criticizes George, her tone leaves a fire in its wake.
In the few moments where Martha shows her more sensitive, feminine side, Gunn performs with finese. Her seduction sequences with Nick are provocative. Her voice almost purrs and she does not merely walk, she saunters. At the end of the play, when she is left all alone, Martha reveals the tenderness that has remained hidden behind her tough exterior for most of the rest of the play. Gunn capably exposes Martha's major weakness, her deep love for George.
STARR does a fantastic job in the role of Nick. His stage presence is good; whether he is sitting or standing his movements simply flow. And this aspect of Starr's performance makes Nick believable because Nick is a consummate athlete who is completely comfortable with his body. In the opening scenes, Starr acts as a great straight man for the sarcastic, verbal abuse that Anthony Korotko Hatch (George) dishes out.
Starr is versatile in the role, playing a wide range of emotions well. He begins the play as a bright-eyed, optimistic and ambitious biologist. But by the end of the play, the weight of the evening's events take their toll on him and Starr's Nick becomes a confused, worn and downtrodden man.
Hatch and Jennifer Gibbs (Honey) make reasonable attempts in their roles, but they encounter a few problems. Hatch reaches a highpoint in the scene where George tells the Miss Muff story. The intensity that he displays when he smashes a bottle is powerful. But Hatch's diction is often unnatural because he overenunciates every word. Gibbs performs well when she experiences an emotional breakdown caused by her fear of becoming pregnant. Otherwise Gibbs often seems unconcious.
Jason Rosencranz's direction is good overall. He directs the actors well in highly emotional moments, including those mentioned above. The staging, however, is sometimes awkward. In Act Two, Starr's back is to the audience for a long time, and we miss the benefit of his facial expressions. But the feeling in Martha's seduction sequences is heightened because of the continuous circles she makes around Nick while he sits on the couch.
Watching Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is an emotionally wrenching experience not meant for the faint of heart--or faint of seat, as the play clocks in at three and a half hours. But the members of Who's Afraid need not worry about that big bad wolf because their show is standing on very solid ground.