On Sept. 17, my eighth grade brother Dylan and I went to the B Street Theatre, (2711 B St.) to see Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” on opening night.
First staged in 1962, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” tells the story of George, a history professor, and Martha, the daughter of the college president, a middle-aged couple facing severe marital problems.
The play starts with Martha telling George that she has invited Nick and Honey, a young couple who appear happily married and whom they had recently met at faculty party, over to their house at 2 a.m., because Martha’s father wants George and Martha to be social with the new teachers’ families, and because Martha is entranced by Nick.
Nick and Honey arrive shortly thereafter, entering a world of fun, games and emotional witchcraft and exorcism.
During the party, George and Martha reveal their marital conflicts through conversation and argument, sucking the younger couple in through alcohol, sex appeal and curiosity until there is no escape.
The play contains themes and plots such as hysterical pregnancies, mental institutions, reality, and illusion.
“Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf?” won the 1963 Tony Award and New York Drama Critics’ Circle awards for Best Play in 1962-63. And after we saw the play, we could see why.
Dylan: I really liked it.
Jackson: A man of many words.
D: No, I really did. The set was very good because instead of using screens and technology, they used a real set.
J: Well said. All of the details on the stage really add realism, such as the books on the floor and the alcohol everywhere.
D: On that note, even though I really liked it, I would definitely not recommend this for my age group. It was very mature with a lot of adult themes and vulgar language.
J: This is not a play that was written for middle schoolers. However, I think that the themes and ideas make it valuable, and even entertaining. However, some of the lines that, when written, were meant to be risque are nowadays somewhat funny. Therefore, I would definitely recommend this show to all parents and any high schooler who has a three-hour attention span. It’s really not that much worse than a current sitcom.
D: No, not sitcom.
J: It’s kind of an intense sitcom.
D: But the themes in it are more serious. And even though the play was staged over 50 years ago, it’s still relevant.
J: I agree to a point. It felt relevant most of the time; however, there were parts that implied severe xenophobia, such as when George puts a bucket of ice on his head and attempts a racist Indian/Asian accent. But they couldn’t have taken those lines out because the Albee estate required B Street to follow the script exactly
D: And I’m glad they didn’t. The dialogue was probably the best thing about the show.
J: No, it was the acting. It was so good that I became emotionally invested in those characters after only 15 minutes.
D: And because of how close the audience is to the stage at B Street, they were able to feel like they were part of the scene. The stage also made some things (in the play) more appropriate.
D: In a normal stage, because there would’ve been more room, they could’ve shown more intimacy between Martha and Nick in the second act when they go into the . . .
J: OK, OK, enough of that. I liked the theater because you have a good angle of the stage no matter where you sit.
D: I know, because I could see everything so well, I didn’t lose interest at all.
J: Well, that was because there were some really intense parts.
D: When George brought the gun out, I was very surprised.
J: Same here. But even though I think that there were some moments where I felt my heart racing, it was a little too long. Three acts in three hours is long for any show, even a great one. During these three acts even though there is some sex, violence, and dramatic blocking, it’s mainly all dialogue. And I think by the end, though I was invested in these characters, I was ready for them to wrap it up.
D: I disagree, I think that the length played an important part. The repetition of the behaviors is the reason that these characters are so developed.
J: Wise beyond your years.
D: But even though I really liked the length of the play, the plot itself could be summarized into a –
J: Paragraph, and a short one at that. You could probably correctly summarize this in four sentences without even seeing the play. “Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf’s” strong suit is not its plot.
D: Really? I thought the plot was very good. The play started at 7 a.m., and I usually go to bed at 9 p.m.. I wasn’t tired the entire time and was constantly thinking about what was going to happen next.
J: But for me, it wasn’t like “The Bachelor,” where I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen next. I was taking in the play as it was going.
D: The entire time, though, there were unanswered questions about George and Martha that I wanted to know. It kept me interested and made me want to know what happens in the end. And the ending did a good job of making the show come full circle.
J: Definitely. The ending makes the show have meaning, and is the reason you sat in the same chair for three hours. That being said, who was your favorite character?
D: Though she was the least important, Honey was my favorite. She brought a level of comedy to this story when she was drunk, but the actor was also able to transition smoothly from funny to serious after just one sinister line. You?
J: Definitely George, I thought that he was so developed that I could understand what he was thinking during every second. I also felt very empathetic for him every time Martha insulted him, even though he could be very passive-aggressive at moments.
D: It was hard, because sometimes I felt sorry for him, but other times I was irritated with him.
J: So what would you give it out of four stars?
D: Three point five.
J: No one speaks like that, Dylan.
D: I speak like that, and I really liked it. How many would you give it?
J: No, I’m kidding. I’ll give it a three-and-a-half too. Even though it was too long, the character development and dialogue made it worth it.
D: So we agree this time.
J: I guess we do.
The show runs Sept. 16-Oct. 19, Tuesdays through Sundays. Tickets are $27-$39.
—By Jackson Margolis