By Lynn Geyer
Edward Albee’s masterpiece “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”, the story of one dysfunctional twosome encountering a second almost as dysfunctional twosome, is the unlikely post-holiday treat from The Lakewood Playhouse.
Albee’s play about George and Martha, a college professor and his alcoholic wife, who “entertain” Nick and Honey, a new professor and is wife, attests to the playwright’s wordsmith skills.
James Venturini’s set is the typical living room of a college-supplied house in the 1950’s – complete with deep maroon colored frieze couch. Diane Runkel’s costume design is appropriate for the era.
Director Larry Albert has captured the crux of the story and relayed it to his actors expertly. Albert spreads the play’s action about the stage of the intimate theatre-in-the- round so no audience member is left out of the story.
He couldn’t have chosen a better cast to take the audience on this excruciatingly painful comedic romp through the events of the evening the four spent when first they met. With just four actors, they each have to have the ability to hold the audience during the 2½ hour production of the three act play, while they undergo alcoholic character changes, humiliate each other, fight and make love.
This is not an easy play to watch; but it is enthralling and would be impossible not to watch because it is so superbly acted.
Kirsten Dean as Honey begins as a subservient wife–type, timid, overly friendly, so very nice and understanding. Once she imbibes “just a touch of brandy – I don’t usually drink at all,” she becomes maudlin, sick and manic-depressive – a very nice job of character building.
Niclas R. Olson is Nick, the new academic arrival. Nick proves to be the perfect unwitting pawn for George and Martha’s “games” they usually play sans audience. He, likewise to his wife, guzzles almost an entire bottle of bourbon during his transformation from glib young scientist to wife protector to besotted letch who succumbs to Martha’s advances and George’s sadistic banter.
Brynne Garman is Martha. Garman, a lovely, smiling lady in real life, converts into the drunken shrew the instant she appears on stage; then she goes from disheveled, screaming, sultry slut, to worse. With this role, Garman has proven she is more than capable to tackle almost anything she wants and will excel in doing so.
Steve Tarry completes the quartet as George, the disillusioned history professor who was never good enough to head his department, even though he married the college president’s daughter, 12-years his senior. George quells his disappointment with his work, his marriage and his life by calling upon his inventive imagination to hurl jibs and jabs jarring the object of his projected discontent, confound and usually injuring, at least their psyche.
Tarry is so relaxed in his role and so natural in delivery, he is actually frightening. The audience commiserates with the cross he must bear as Martha’s husband until they see into his true nature and teeters onto which side to shift.
Tarry is excellent in his interpretation of the role. He has made George so understated, so natural, it is hard not to engender sympathy from the audience – then the actor drops the other shoe and has the audience hating him and secretly hoping he doesn’t do what they know he will.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” continues at The Lakewood Playhouse in the northeast section of the Lakewood Towne Center, just behind the Pierce Transit Bus Depot through February 2, each Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. with Sunday matinees at 2 p.m. There is a pay-what-you-can performance scheduled for Thursday, January 16 and an actor’s benefit for Thursday, January 23; both are at 8 p.m.
For more information or reservations, call the box office at (253) 588-0042 or go online to www.lakewoodplayhouse.org.
It may be hard for the less mature audience members to accept the amount of liquor these four consume in the 2 hours stage time; tell them to ask their parents. They will remember how we drank away the late fifties to ease our fears of “the bomb” and whatever other demons lived in our hearts and minds, like who’s afraid of living life without false illusions. Albee has released them all in this dynamic bit of theatre. Don’t miss it.