Alcoholism, dysfunction on American stage
For the fourth play in an ambitious theater season at The Stonehouse in Nevada City, local theater company Synthetic Unlimited has chosen a debaucherous American favorite, “Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?” This 1962 drama by Edward Albee is set late one drunken night at the home of a married couple, George and Martha, whom Albee based on two of his New York socialite friends infamous for their intellectual artist salons where drinking could last all weekend. The older pair invites an unsuspecting younger couple home with them, and the drama and dirt of both couples erupt in two hours of witty and vicious dialogue, heavy petting, and non-stop drinking.
Synthetic Unlimited produces a new classic play every month at The Stonehouse, with an hour of opening music by Grace Fae and Dylan McConnell at 6:30 p.m. each night, and classic New England Cuisine from the Stonehouse chefs and a full bar after 6 p.m. The play begins at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays, this weekend and next. It runs for two hours, with two short intermissions.
“This is the story of two couples approaching the nuclear option. Total War. Truth versus Illusion in a final showdown,” writes the play’s director Jimmy McCammon. Within any marriage, individuals make certain compromises, and agree upon certain truths and illusions. This play takes a long hard look at alcoholism, adultery, ambition, and the games people play in relationships, and won the 1963 Tony Award for Best Play. Local musician Dylan Sherwood McConnell, who will play stand-up bass in the opening music act before each play, says “I remember watching Richard Burton and Liz Taylor in [Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?], and thinking it was the first time I saw real people portrayed in film.”
The title is a pun on the song “Who’s Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf?”, and the characters sing the song throughout the play, substituting the name of Virginia Woolf, the well-known feminist novelist. This is one of the many literary and academic references peppering the dialogue of this fast-paced play.
In an interview, Albee said this about choosing the title, “I was having a beer one night, and I saw “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind again. And of course, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf means who’s afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who’s afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical, university intellectual joke.”
Trish Adair, previously seen as Kuan Yin in “Journey to the West,” Blanche in “A Streetcar Named Desire,” and Nurse Ratched in “One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest”, makes the iconic role of the seductive and biting Martha (played by Elizabeth Taylor in the film) her own. Ken Miele, the Narrator in “Our Town,” portrays the sardonic George, and Synthetic Unlimited regulars Jimmy McCammon and Kate Tobie (Solange in last month’s “The Maids”), round out the foursome as Nick and Honey.
Synthetic Unlimited continues their season through October with an Italian comedy, “The Servant of Two Bosses,” in August, “Betrayal” by Harold Pinter in September, and closes with an experimental version of Shakespeare’s “Othello.” For more information check out Synthetic Unlimited on Facebook, and to reserve and buy tickets, go to The Briar Patch, visit http://www.syntheticunlimited.org or call 1-888-95-SHOWS.
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