Tuesday, May 3, 2022

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: A Review


(l-r) Zachary Quinto and Calista Flockhart

By Darlene Donloe 

Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton famously played the volatile, but surprisingly loving George and Martha in the classic film, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" 

It’s hard to imagine any other actors doing justice to the roles, but Zachary Quinto and Calista Flockhart, currently starring in The Geffen Playhouse version of the comedy/drama, give it a valiant effort.  

Quinto’s George is a brow-beaten, unambitious husband while Flockhart’s Martha is a boozy, often unkind, frustrated, shrewish wife.

Both Quinto and Flockhart are exceptional in their roles and bring fresh nuance to Albee’s material.

Here’s the story. George and Martha, the American theater’s most notoriously dysfunctional couple, have invited the young and naive Nick and Honey over for drinks. What begins as harmless patter escalates to outright marital warfare, with the provincial newcomers caught in the crossfire.

It all takes place circa 1962, in the living room of a house on the campus of a small New England college. 

This marks the 60th anniversary of the hilarious and harrowing Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? one of Edward Albee’s most famous and most vicious masterpieces. 

(l-r) Graham Phillips and Aimee Carrero

Albee’s tome, through biting dialogue, examines the complexities of the marriage of a middle-aged couple, Martha and George. Late one evening, after a university faculty party, they receive an unwitting younger couple, Nick and Honey, as guests, and draw them into their bitter and frustrated relationship. 

This is a no-holds-barred, in-your-face show. It raises uneasy questions and peels back some intimate marital layers that should be handled behind closed doors and especially not in front of a young married couple that you’ve just met.

At times this show is brutal and tragic. For instance, at one point during the show, George and Martha pay tribute to their son on his 21st birthday. In an act of cruelness, George tells Martha that their son has died in a car crash.  When she demands to see the telegram announcing this news, he claims he has eaten it. George sings a song, “Who’s Afraid of the Virginia Woolf,” as the curtain on Act 11 falls. 

The audience is left wondering if, indeed, there actually is a child or if the kid is coming from George and Martha’s imagination.

It’s all too sad! 

(l-r) Graham Phillips, Aimee Carrero, Zachary Quinto, and Calista Flockhart

Martha’s diabolical tendencies are evidenced in her quote: “George, who is out somewhere there in the dark, who is good to me - whom I revile, who can keep learning the games we play as quickly as I can change them.”  

This quote tells you everything you need to know about Martha. 

Director Gordon Greenberg has assembled an impressive cast. Quinto and Flockhart fit like a hand and glove. They play off of each other in a very familiar way – that works well on the stage. Aimee Carrero and Graham Phillips play the young couple that comes to visit George and Martha at 2 a.m. after a faculty meeting at the college Martha’s father helms. Carrero’s “Honey” is hilarious as a naïve, or not so naïve drunk. Phillips’ “Nick” plays it straight as the husband and the new employee at the college of which Martha’s father is the president. He’s also caught the eye of Martha, who, every chance she gets, openly flirts with him – even in front of her husband.

Quinto’s comedic timing and delivery are brilliant.  His almost shuffle-like saunter around the apartment rings true as does his angst for his wife and his wife’s father.  Flockhart’s emotionally out-of-control Martha speaks to what’s going on in her life.

But that’s not all. Her husband has disappointed her on several levels including not giving her a child and not rising in the ranks of the college.  He’s a professional failure, and both are dissatisfied with his lack of ambition for their own reasons.

This version of Albee’s “Woolf” is a winner! 

Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, directed by Gordon Greenberg, stars Calista Flockhart, Zachary Quinto, Aimee Carrero, and Graham Phillips. 

Wilson Chin’s scenic design is delicious and a legitimate part of the cast, as is Alejo Vietti’s costume design, Lindsay Jones’ original music, and sound design, and Elizabeth Harper’s lighting design. 

On the DONLOE SCALE: (D) don’t bother, (O) oh, no!, (N) needs work, (L) likable, (O) Oh, yeah, and (E) excellent, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? gets an E (excellent). 

Running time: Three (3) hours, including two 10-minute intermissions. 

"Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse, 10886 Le Conte Avenue, Los Angeles, CA, 7:30 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 1 and 7 p.m. Saturday and 1 and 7 p.m. Sunday through May 22, 2022; $30-$149; 310 208-2028, www.geffenplayhouse.org 

Not recommended to those under the age of 14. Children under 6 years of age will not be admitted. 

Proof of vaccination and masks are required – additional policy details can be found at https://www.geffenplayhouse.org/plan/reopening/.


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