Geffen Playhouse Presents WHO’S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? Review – Elegant Escalation

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From behind a mahogany bookcase stuffed with leather-bound books and pull chain lamps dispelling soft light, George (Zachary Quinto) emerges. He is frumpy as the brown cardigan on his back. While his wife, the drunken Martha (Calista Flockhart), tells her guests Nick and Honey (Graham Phillips and Aimee Carrero) a salacious story, George shuffles closer. In a blink, he pulls out a rifle and aims it at Martha. As he pulls the trigger, the guests scream, expecting a bullet, but a bright red umbrella snaps open instead.

The moment George and Martha burst through the frosted glass doors at the back of the stage, set designer Wilson Chin’s New England living room is radioactive with their toxicity. Martha immediately traverses the academic and professorial room, collapsing onto a velvet green couch and tossing her shoes among the haphazard stacks of books that litter the floor. George is already at the bar, mixing drinks for Martha, who relaxes into the couch and shoves a lit cigarette between her lips.

Geffen Playhouse Presents a Captivating Classic

The beginning of the play grabbed this reviewer and pulled her into the hilariously dysfunctional relationship of George and Martha; not a minute of the first act goes by without a burst of laughter from the audience. When Martha tells her guests about their son, George wittily replies, “The apple of our three eyes, Martha being a cyclops.” Each line the actors deliver is punctuated with laughter from the audience. This reviewer was compelled by the play’s kinesis, its ceaseless motion. You too may find yourself hopelessly ensnared in the rising tension.

The atmosphere becomes boozier and hazier as the play escalates; drinks are poured and repoured, words slurred, bottles shattered. Cigarettes are lit and put out, insults and jokes amplified by the sound of clinking ice cubes and screens of feathery smoke. Martha kisses Nick, wanting George to see and hoping that he cares; George reads his book, choosing not to see and pretending that he doesn’t.

In this reviewer’s opinion, the beauty of director Gordon Greenberg’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? lies in the elegance of the story’s escalation. Whether familiar or unfamiliar with the play, those captivated by dangerous emotional games will enjoy the nuance and intensity of the cast’s dazzling performance.


Through May 22, 2022

Sundays - 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm
Tuesdays - 7:30 pm
Wednesdays - 7:30 pm
Thursdays - 7:30 pm
Fridays - 7:30 pm
Saturdays - 1:00 pm and 7:00 pm


Gil Cates Theater at Geffen Playhouse
10886 Le Conte Avenue
Los Angeles



For more information and tickets visit the Geffen Playhouse website.

Photos: Justin Bettman and Jeff Lorch


Aimee Carrero as Honey
Calista Flockhart as Martha
Graham Phillips as Nick
Zachary Quinto as George


Written by Edward Albee
Directed by Gordon Greenberg

Scenic Designer Wilson Chin
Costume Designer Alejo Vietti
Lighting Designer Elizabeth Harper
Original Music & Sound Design by Lindsay Jones
Fight Director Steve Rankin
Intimacy Director Mia Schachter
Dramaturg Sarah Rose Leonard
Production Stage Manager J. Jason Daunter
Assistant Stage Manager Kyrsten Goodrich
Casting Director Phyllis Schuringa, CSA

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