REVIEW: WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF at the Denver Center

by Edwin Lobach

In its 60 th year in production, one might find it difficult to see the relevance in a play based upon the time period it was written, but in reality it’s more relevant than ever. But I’ll get to that. Set in the living room of a middle-aged college professor and his affluent wife, the show begins after our hosts and their guests arrive home from a dinner party to continue its spirit…with more spirits. Drinking is the name of the game and stabbing banter are the stage weapons.

Now obviously this is a renowned play, which admittedly I’ve never seen, nor the film adaptation, but I can say with fresh eyes that this particular work, directed by Margot Bordelon, is a must-see production. The show is an honest display of a married couple underhandedly bickering at each other while the guests and audience grow increasingly uncomfortable and sometimes downright upset. With perfect
execution and landing a standing ovation, our hosts George and Martha (Jon Hudson Odom, Kelly McAndrew) incessantly cut into one another with clever verbiage and backward compliments; and all the while their guests Honey and Nick (Isabella de Souza Moore, Paul David Story) nervously shuffle their feet and amicably smile or laugh along with the audience. Deep into the night they drink, sometimes against their wishes, and one has to wonder if the actors aren’t actually drinking. So true to their portrayal of inebriation, my small cocktail felt almost embarrassing compared to their excessive intake.

George has been a history professor for a very long time and his discourse was rather self-appeasing and highfalutin. It’s really something to witness Odom power through the lines as if they were not the memorized lines of playwright Edward Albee, but instead an all-night improvisation of genius.

Contrasting the hosts greatly were the younger guests, portrayed as having more naivety and hope, more ignorance and inculcated principle. Paul David Story had more of a tough-guy arrogance about him when his character got upset, which rubbed me wrong somehow, but that just may be the direction Bordelon envisioned. Moore on the other hand had me laughing the most and, on thinking, it wasn’t necessarily what she said but how she presented the lines. She played a young lightweight well and I was in a stitch more than once.

This play is about the truths and illusions we create for ourselves, and while theirs were about the ambitions and social status of the time period, one might see a greater relevance now in how we receive and repeat information. We are constantly deceived by incoming information, all of it having such disparate ideas, and yet we keep this conniving national discourse without hope of divorce, just like
George and Martha, Nick and Honey.

This is a must-see, a truly timeless classic, and you can find tickets  now through March 6 by visiting denvercenter.org or calling 303-893-4100.

 

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