Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a bitter portrayal of a middle-aged couple’s ravaged years of hitting the bottle and verbally abusing one another. The entire play takes place in the living room of a small New England college town. Martha and George are the two main characters who host a younger couple at their home after a campus faculty party, unbeknownst to George at the time. Honey and Nick are a seemingly average and private young couple who are new to town. Nick is a biology professor at the same college as George, who’s been in the history department for perhaps far too long.
George and Martha are about as far away from a happy marriage as can be: He feeds her fuel by pouring her endless rounds of drinks. He battles back when he sees fit. Once Nick and Honey are invited in and seated with drinks in hand, the games begin. These games are named “Get the Guests“, “Humiliate the Host” and “Hump the Hostess“.
Between taunting George with his failures and weaknesses, Martha gets cozy with Nick and openly flirts with him in front of the others. Martha’s tales start to shake Honey, who’s probably never been this drunk before and who heads to the washroom sick from drinking (referred to as ‘upchuck’ in the play). The play dives deeper and deeper and by the end of the story, we’re left with a very different Nick and Honey.
Gabrielle Rose and Kevin McNulty’s chemistry is spot on as Martha and George in this Arts Club Theatre production. Together with Craig Erickson as Nick and Meg Roe as Honey, the four battle for a three-hour, two-intermission spiral into domestic hell. Meg Roe’s performance comes across as completely innocent and I liked her character transformation the best. By the third act, she’s well on her way to showing some wit and self-worth through her thoroughly plastered state.
I took pause after the play finished to try to imagine myself in one of the actor’s shoes. These are heavy roles to sink one’s teeth into on a nightly basis, and I give huge credit to the four talented actors who make this play appear to work effortlessly on their parts.
Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? originally opened on Broadway in 1962. It won several awards in 1963, and its title is taken from “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?” from Walt Disney’s Three Little Pigs.
The Arts Club Theatre Company production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? will run through March 12 at the Granville Island Stage. Tickets are available either online or by calling the Box Office at 604.687.1644.