Last Saturday night, June 22nd, I was privileged to experience one of the most enjoyable theatre productions in my recent memory. It was intimate, personal, and refreshingly authentic. You could feel the passion for theatre that every single person involved with this production felt. I saw the play “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” written by Edward Albee as presented by New Direction Community Theater at Indian Head Center for the Arts’ black box theatre. Intrigued? Well, then read on, my friend.
It was intimate, personal, and refreshingly authentic. You could feel the passion for theatre that every single person involved with this production felt.
The basic plotline of the play is that there is an older married couple named George and Martha who are stuck in an unhappy marriage to put it kindly. The scene opens up at 2 in the morning with the two understandably exhausted. They are awake because a younger couple from the university that George is a professor at are coming over to mingle. The younger couple, Nick and Honey, arrive and what ensues is an utter train wreck of emotional explosions and visceral arguments that even turn physical at certain points. This play explores a lot of interesting themes such as reality versus illusion, the prison that we can sometimes create for ourselves, and familiarity breeding contempt. I won’t spoil the twist at the end of this play (I’m not a monster), but I definitely did not see it coming. Not to say there wasn’t plenty of foreshadowing looking back, but I was definitely surprised.
Now, where this show really shines is in the performance of its four actors. At the helm is Alex LaClair portraying George. He infuses the character with a charming sardonic wit and has a wonderful vocal cadence. At times, he is downright maniacal, but at other times you can catch glimpses of a man who has realized that he has squandered his life in a debilitating marriage and empty existence. The latter was most evident at the end of Act 1 when his wife Martha is berating him. Getting to watch the emotional journey of this character on the face of Alex LaClair was truly an intense experience. The nuance he displayed as the scene slowly reached its precipice was both refreshing and terrifying as he began in despair and finally succumbed to mania. I was truly on the edge of my seat as he sang “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”. LaClair did clip some lines here and there, but he remained in character throughout. Considering that he stepped into the role within weeks of the show’s opening due to the previous actor having a medical emergency, he was absolutely magnificent.
Next, there is the tour de force that is Lynne O’Meara as Martha. This actress infused Martha with such dynamic character progression that I could clearly see the character arc as if it were diagrammed right before my eyes. Martha begins the play with perturbance at her husband, but as the play progresses, she descends into complete despair at the prison that she has willingly locked herself into. There were a few moments near the end of Act 3 that sent literal chills up my arms with the authenticity of O’Meara’s performance. I will gleefully attend each performance that she gives.
Finally, there are two actors that portray Nick and Honey, Scott Jacoby and Amanda LePore. Jacoby was excellent at making the audience feel just as uncomfortable as he does with the entire awkward situation of watching a married couple (that you don’t know well) fight like animals before your very eyes. LePore was very good at playing an unbearably clueless and naive woman with a touch of mental instability. Both actors worked well together and were believable as husband and wife.
In terms of the technical side of this production, I thought it was very well done. The set was very simple, but that served this production. It consisted of a living room with two couches and an armchair with a coffee table between them. There was a haphazard bookshelf behind everything and a minibar to the right of that. Before the play even started, the set was able to prepare me for the chaotic tone of the story by having books strewn all over the floor of the stage.
The lighting, by Rick Thompson, was also simplistic but did an adequate job of conveying the time of night that the show takes place during. Since this was in a black box theatre, there were very little synthetic sound elements. Instead, the four actors projected organically. The volume was perfect and I understood every word. I’ve been to productions before where that was not the case, so this attention to detail was very much appreciated. The costuming and makeup, done by Laurie Foster, did a good job at conveying the time period that this play is set in.
Finally, the two directors Charles Watley and Alex LaClair did an excellent job with managing the tone of this production. This play is one that if not handled properly, it can be unbearable for an audience to undergo because of its emotional intensity. To combat this, Watley and LaClair used a kind of accordion effect by alternating moments of tension and humor. They also made some bold artistic choices that I believe paid off, such as choosing to have a character break a glass container at one point on stage. I’m sure it was sugar glass, but it was nonetheless jarring in the best way possible for the audience. The directors also created some ‘pretty pictures’ throughout the play: a picture falling artistically as a metaphor for what’s to come at the end of Act 1 and cigarette smoke (albeit, vapor from an electronic cigarette) billowing around a character as he compulsively takes continuous drags from the cigarette in Act 3 while lying back on a couch exasperated with the events of the night.
So, the real question you want to know at this point is would I recommend this play? Well, that depends on who you are. If you are a genuine lover of all things theatre, then yes. If you’re more a casual theatergoer who typically prefers a movie in their sweatpants while sitting on a couch at home, then I don’t believe you would enjoy the intensity of this production. It’s not for the faint of heart, but man, was it worth it if you’re up for it.
Running Time: Approximately 3 hours with two 10-minute intermissions.
Advisory: This show contains mature content relating to language and sexual themes. There is also some violence. I would not advise this for anyone under the age of 18 unless they were with a parental figure in order to discuss the mature themes of it afterward.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” played at the Indian Head Center for the Arts on June 21st and 22nd at 7 pm. The show has now come to an end. For more information on this production and others, check here.