Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay


Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Shotgun Players
Review by Richard Connema | Season Schedule

Also see Patrick's review of Safe House and Richard's reviews of Baker Street, The Lion King and Darlene Popovic: Weapons of Mass Distraction


Josh Schell, Beth Wilmurt, and David Sinaiko
Photo by Jessica Palopoli
The Shotgun Players theatre company is presenting an intense version of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. I was blown away by this production with its superb cast of four actors. I saw the original with Uta Hagen, Arthur Hill, Melinda Dillon, and George Gizzard at the Billy Rose Theatre way back in 1962. I even worked on the Warner Brothers film with Richard Burton, Elizabeth Taylor, George Segal, and Sandy Dennis.

George (David Sinaiko) and Martha (Beth Wilmurt) have been married for 23 years. He teaches at a small New England college run by Martha's father. At one time, George's future as a possible successor to his father-in-law was bright, but it didn't happen. Now Martha thinks he is failure.

The play starts out with George and Martha preparing to entertain a young biologist named Nick (Josh Schell) and his wife Honey (Megan Trout) in their home. Martha asks George what Warner Brothers film Bette Davis said "What a dump" in and George doesn't recollect. She then says, "If you existed, I'd divorce you." You know it's going to be a rough night for the two. Nick and Honey arrive for a nightcap since it's late in the night. George and Martha's scornful verbal assaults on the couple, alcohol-fuelled arguments, and sado-masochistic mind games represent some of the most savage scenes seen on the stage. This is a bizarre theatrical creation of true depth, malicious comedy, and compassionate insight. Edward Albee's masterpiece combines the dazzling, the hackneyed, the rude, and the poetic.

Director Mark Jackson has assembled a brilliant cast for the three-hour, two-intermission production. Beth Wilmurt and David Sinaiko were born to play Martha and George. They are outstanding in their roles. Beth Wilmurt gives an exhilarating performance as the bitter, vicious and malicious wife who's out to emasculate her husband. David Sinaiko, stalking the stage like an animal, thrashing everyone, is electrifying. He delivers insults to all with a cruel, cold, reptilian smile. The audience watches the grueling battles with horrified fascination. Josh Schell and Megan Trout as the young couple who are caught in the crossfire fantastically support the heavyweights.

Mark Jackson has staged a very impressive revival of Albee's most brilliant and hellish play. Nina Ball has designed a simple set with no furniture. It's almost in the shape of a boxing ring. Ashley Holvick's costumes are suitable for 1950s faculty couples.

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? plays at The Ashby Stage, 1901 Ashby Ave, Berkeley, through November 20th, 2016. For tickets call 510-841-6500 or visit www.shotgunplayers.org.


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