John-Paul Sartre writes that “Hell is other people,” and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a potent example of how humans torment each other. The Beck Center for the Arts production of this warped little gem is as delightful as it is horrifying. It’s final weekend in the Studio Theatre now complete, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a great piece about how bad people can be.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is one of those seminal works that impacted the landscape of the culture. It is still a shocking play that defies our expectations of what civil behavior and social interaction should be,” says director Don Carrier, Interim Director of the Case Western Reserve University/Cleveland Play House MFA Acting Program.
The evening at George and Martha’s begins at 2:00am with the arrival of Nick and Honey. They’ve all just left a party at the house of the College President (who also happens to be Martha’s father). George doesn’t want them there, and Nick doesn’t want to be there, but alcohol and intrigue keeps the quartet together into the wee hours of the morning. What begins as a night of one couple getting to know another couple, quickly turns into a series of games egged on by the sourness of George and Martha’s twisted relationship.
The cast of four is superb, bantering through the sensational dialogue with a confidence that makes this 2 hour and 50 minute production seem like it’s gone by in a blink. There are plenty of laughs throughout, which makes the darkness of the story that much more textured.
Dr. Michael Mauldin as George and Derdriu Ring as Martha are a seething pair. Their soul poking seems to know no bounds as they ooze into each other’s space, each one trying to make the other more miserable.
Martha seems to be the main instigator, and Ring’s subtle digging-style gives her character a savage sophistication. The personality is cunning, and smooth, yet continuously surprising and vicious.
“Oh, I like your anger. I think that’s what I like about you most. Your anger.” – Martha
Mauldin provides a calculated, cool approach to the character of George. He’s provided just enough nonchalance to leave George open for attack, and then he brings out his teeth to snap right back in the most cutting fashion. Yet it’s civil… and horrible. It’s a dichotomy of wonderful disaster.
The characters of Nick and Honey are the most unsuspecting of individuals as they enter George and Martha’s lair of dysfunction. Daniel Telford plays the “new guy” on the New England college campus, having recently transferred into the
Math Biology Department. Telford approaches Nick with both enthusiasm and layers of apprehension in the situation. Becca Ciamacco plays the adorable and physically delicate character of Honey, giving her a naïve quality that is hopeful and likeable.
“Martha: Truth or illusion, George; you don’t know the difference.
George: No, but we must carry on as though we did.
Why do George and Martha stay together? Why do Nick and Honey stay so long in a house where they are clearly very uncomfortable? These are questions that get slowly answered with booze, cruel mind tricks, and an ending that will leave audiences wondering about who the real victims are in the show.
“Dashed hopes and good intentions. Good, better, best, bested.” – George
Did you miss this production? Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is just one of the many great productions offered throughout the season at the Beck Center for the Arts in Lakewood, Ohio. Information and tickets are available for all shows by visiting www.beckcenter.org, or by calling 216-521-2540.
Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? ran from October 5 – November 4, 2018.