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
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
Original Music & Sound Design by Lindsay Jones
Fight Director Steve Rankin
Intimacy Director Mia
Dramaturg Sarah Rose Leonard
Production Stage Manager J. Jason Daunter
Assistant Stage Manager
Casting Director Phyllis
About the Author: Holly Fontanetta
Holly Fontanetta is inspired by narratives that capture the idiosyncrasies of human experience. She has driven absurd distances on a whim in search of character, including two road trips from New York to California. Holly spends her free time hanging out with cats (her own or strays - either is fine) and swimming in the ocean (Atlantic or Pacific - either is fine). Her favorite stories to read and write feature women overcoming extraordinary circumstances. Currently, Holly is learning to paint and filling her walls with strange art.