Thursday, October 25, 2012

Theater Review: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Amy Morton and Tracy Letts. Photo: Michael Brosilow
A New Look at George in What Traditionally Has Been Martha's Story
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up to expectations -- hers or her university president father's -- and still is a lowly associate professor with a sad, unpublished novel.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: or 212-239-6200.

Christians might also like to know:
-- The show posts a MATURE advisory
-- Lord's name taken in vain  -- Lots!
-- Language
-- Sexual activity

Note: the show runs three hours with two intermissions.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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