I remember the year my boyfriend took me to see Hedda Gabler for Valentine’s Day. A play where the heroine shoots herself in the head at the end wasn’t perhaps the most romantic, but if tragic love is your calling, then don’t miss Edward Albee’s darkly funny Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? at the Ford’s Theater.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is Washingtonian Albee’s most famous play, and doesn’t feel a day over fresh, even though it was born in 1962. The biting comedy of no-manners takes no prisoners as bitterly married couple George and Martha flay with stiletto wit and raucous eruptions. The feuding couple is played to perfection by Holly Twyford and Gregory Linington, as are the lambs to slaughter, guests Nick (Danny Gavigan) and Honey (Maggie Wilder), who have no idea that late night drinks is a laden minefield in George and Martha’s marital World of Warcraft. Twyford is towering as the iron and candy floss Martha – powerful and weak, aggressor and victim, unsinkable and sunk. Linington is the embodiment of passive aggressive as George, seemingly affable until he strikes with lethal force. Wilder’s Honey is comically charming, her hilarious delivery a textbook of timing. Gavingan portrays Nick with Protean expertise, rendering the Ken-doll character as sympathetic, unlikeable, and sympathetic again in a single paragraph.
It’s a complicated, uncomfortable war of words. The audience must untangle truth and delusion, pulled into the boxing ring of George and Martha’s toxic marriage, as well as the tender moments of umbilical cohesion. The scenic design by Meghan Rahm slices their home in half, exposing the interior, an excellent parallel to the internal pain fileted open for audience consumption. Director Aaron Posner doesn’t temper the vicious cuts, deftly allowing the talented cast to work their magic with Albee’s exacting script. It isn’t cozy or charming, but it’s powerful. Everybody should go down with the ship.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? plays through February 19th, 2017 at Ford’s Theatre – 511 Tenth Street, NW in Washington DC. Run time: three hours with two ten minute intermissions. Recommended for age 17 and up.
Photo Credit: Scott Suchman