Review Roundup: WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? Opens on Broadway - All the Reviews!
Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened Saturday evening, October 13, 2012, at the Booth Theatre (222 West 45th Street), exactly 50 years to the day of the play's original Broadway opening on Saturday, October 13, 1962.
Directed by Tony Award nominee Pam MacKinnon (Clybourne Park), the production features the original Steppenwolf cast led by Tracy Letts and Amy Morton, the playwright and the star of the Pulitzer and Tony Award-winning smash hit August: Osage County.
The two face off as George and Martha, one of theatre's most notoriously dysfunctional couples in Albee's hilarious and provocative masterpiece. They are joined by Carrie Coon and Madison Dirks as the unwitting young couple invited over to George and Martha's for an unforgettable night of cocktails and crossfire.
Let's see what the critics had to say...
Charles Isherwood, The New York Times: The soul ache this superlative staging leaves behind is accompanied by a feeling far more emotionally enriching: the exhilaration of a fresh encounter with a great work of theater revitalized anew. This Steppenwolf Theater production, the first necessary ticket of the fall Broadway season, establishes beyond question that at the half-century mark, an age when many plays, not to mention many people, are showing signs of flab, Mr. Albee's scalding drama of marital discord still retains the bantam energy and strong bite of its youth. The revelation here is the performance of Tracy Letts, making an electrifying Broadway debut as an actor...Under the tightrope-taut direction of Pam MacKinnon...Mr. Letts brings a coiled ferocity to George that all but reorders our responses to a play that many of us probably thought had by now vouchsafed all its surprises.
Thom Geier, Entertainment Weekly: It's been exactly 50 years since Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? first brayed its way onto Broadway, but Edward Albee's four-person drama has lost none of its searing psychological power over the years...Letts, better known as the playwright behind the Pulitzer winner August: Osage County, brings a fresh approach to the usually much quieter role of George...Morton's may be the most sympathetic Martha ever to appear on stage - her implosion in the play's final scenes is devastating on multiple levels...it is Letts and Morton who put their stamp on the play - and just about manage to eclipse the memory of the fine Broadway revival starring Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner just seven years ago.
Mark Kennedy, Associated Press: MacKinnon, who recently brilliantly directed "Clybourne Park" and has worked closely with Albee ever since she directed the premiere of his "The Play About the Baby" in 2001, proves again that she is a master at pacing and getting the best out of her actors who are wrestling with tough material. At Saturday's opening night, Albee came up on stage to wild applause – and bowed to her.
Elisabeth Vincentelli, NY Post: But fabrication, delusion and manipulation are integral to the play. Like Beckett and his existentialist comic nightmares, Albee mines a pitch-black absurdism. Fifty years on, and he's still one step ahead of Broadway.
Chris Jones, Chicago Tribune: MacKinnon's production, which essentially re-claims the work from its post-Hollywood identity - of a vehicle for a diva dangling on The Edge and her handsome, self-loathing husband - is an ideal way to pay tribute to Albee. It banishes the image of Elizabeth Taylor (or even Kathleen Turner's) Martha and substitutes Morton's more vulnerable, down-to-earth characterization of the daughter of a college president and a woman who plays games, lashes out and ties herself in knots, but all in the service of keeping a lid on the dangerously disappointed, and thus dangerously destructive, guy she married and clearly still loves...Morton and Letts together convey, better than any of the other actors I've seen in this familiar drama, the essentially smallness of George and Martha's suffocating little republic, a dominion that can never reach beyond themselves.
Elysa Gardner, USA Today: Letts relays this dark-horse quality as powerfully as any performer this critic has seen in the role. From his masterfully acerbic rebuttals to Martha's initial barrage of insults, this George proves that he isn't the mere simp his wife describes but rather a simmering cauldron of frustration and disappointment. And he lets the lid off with an unmannered intensity that is as bracing as it is convincing. Of course, any production of Woolf relies on the strength of its four-member cast; and this one, transferred from Chicago's Steppenwolf Theatre Company, has no weak links. Morton's savage but ultimately poignant Martha is, in keeping with Letts' stringent delivery, drier and less flamboyant than Kathleen Turner's in the last Broadway revival...You'll leave the gathering shaken and sobered, but also exhilarated. All golden anniversaries should be this memorable.
Robert Feldberg, NorthJersey.com: Witty, sarcastic, cruel, clownish, with the timing of a stand-up comic, Letts makes George a very funny, scarily driven man, the quicksilver center of the evening. You can see the stakes rise in the color of his face, which turns bright red as his anger peaks. Meanwhile, Morton, a perfect acting mate, gives glimpses of fear beneath Martha's boisterous, belittling manner, prefiguring the last, poignant line of the play.
Linda Winer, Newsday: From the opening moments, the Steppenwolf Theatre Company's brilliantly cast and justly celebrated production, which opened Saturday on the masterwork's 50th anniversary, gives off a voltage of the new and the giddy-making confidence that comes from being in sublimely trustworthy hands.
Jeremy Gerard, Bloomberg: "Virginia Woolf" is that rarity, a three-act, two- intermission drama that grabs you and never lets go. George and Martha will remain together, but hardly on a note of hope. Credit MacKinnon and her perfectly synchronized quartet for executing the play not as an allegory but as a real- time excursion into lives made unbearably common by compromise and self-delusion. It's unforgiving, and it's also unforgettable.
Hedy Weiss, Chicago Sun-Times: Letts is so blisteringly good - so incisive in every shift of mood and strategy and cuttingly comic barb - that there is a real danger he might be derailed from playwrighting by an onslaught of acting offers. Morton, who already showed what she is made of in Letts' "August: Osage County," finds a way to be every bit as vulnerable as she is corrosive and monstrous, and it is devastating. Eight performances of this a week? Impossible to comprehend.
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