|Amy Morton and Tracy Letts. Photo: Michael Brosilow|
By Lauren Yarger
Two of the most riveting performances on Broadway are taking place over at the Booth Theatre where Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company's revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf is playing.
The performances stand out, not only because of their strong portrayals of the Tony-Award-winning study of a love/hate relationship, but because the dynamic shifts that take place. Traditionally, this is Martha's show -- a powerhouse part for the actress (here Amy Morton). Her husband, George, typically seems weaker and comes off as a wimp or as a victim. In this production, directed by Pam MacKinnon, George, played by Tracy Letts, holds his own against the force of his wife and becomes an equal player in the game. It's really fascinating to watch and the reason you should add yet another revival of the show to your calendar (the last Broadway revival was in 2005 and that George -- Bill Irwin, opposite Kathleen Turner -- won the Best Actor Tony. Expect another nomination here).
Morton (who appeared on Broadway in August: Osage County, the play for which the multi-talented Letts won the Pulitzer Prize as its author) takes a firm grip on Martha and steers her through the depths that make up the grieving, desperately lonely woman who enjoys dominating and torturing her husband. George never has lived up to expectations -- hers or her university president father's -- and still is a lowly associate professor with a sad, unpublished novel.
Always on the prowl for younger, sexually attractive men, Martha invites her latest object of interest, new professor Nick (Madison Dirks) and his naive wife, Honey (Carrie Coon) over for drink. The never-ending flow of booze loosens tongues, lets down guards and makes for a night of pure hell as the intimate secrets of both marriages are revealed. Watching George give it back as good as he gets is what sets this production apart. Letts and Morton have a natural rapport that adds to the belief that these are two old married people who know all the best and worst parts of each other and who take great pleasure in knowing which buttons to push.
Nick, despite being tempted by Martha's seduction, feels a creeping horror as he realizes that watching George and Martha is like looking at Honey and himself 20 years down the road. Honey spends most of the night drunk and throwing up (Coon has some nice comedic moments, but for some reason shouts most of her lines).
The book-pile-trimmed home, typical of a New England college professor, is designed by Todd Rosenthal. Costume designer Nan Cibula-Jenkins puts us in 1962.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf has been extended through Feb 24 at the Booth Theatre, 222 West 45th St., NYC. Tickets: www.Telecharge.com or 212-239-6200.
Christians might also like to know:
-- The show posts a MATURE advisory
-- Lord's name taken in vain -- Lots!
-- Sexual activity
Note: the show runs three hours with two intermissions.