BWW Review: City of Fairfax Theatre Company Fearlessly Takes on WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?

BWW Review: City of Fairfax Theatre Company Fearlessly Takes on WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?

Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? has long been considered an American masterpiece, with some of the best dialogue in the history of drama. The current production by the City of Fairfax Theatre Company, directed by Ed Zakreski, presents this classic material with startling effectiveness.

It is 1963, and George (D. Scott Graham), a middle-aged history professor at a small New England college, is in a longtime tumultuous marriage with Martha (Karen Jadlos Shotts), the daughter of the college president. The couple returns from a faculty party at two in the morning, pouring drinks and trading insults, when Martha reveals she has invited guests over for a nightcap. Nick (Mike Rudden) and Honey (Stephanie Ramsey) are young, new in town, and reluctant to drop by; but as the bourbon and brandy flow, they fail to make a polite exit and instead become wrapped up in a series of increasingly twisted games with their hosts.

All four actors embrace the sharp dialogue, especially Shotts, who plays Martha with genuine humanity. Martha is a legendarily challenging role, but Shotts is up to the task and commands each emotional facet, hurling abuse with relish one moment and succumbing to mesmerizing teariness the next. Anytime Shotts is onstage, it's hard to look away from her. Graham is a sympathetic George, appearing pathetic when he needs to, but doling out cruelty to match Martha's. Rudden plays up Nick's smug passive aggression, while Ramsey draws out Honey's wide-eyed comedy. All of the actors are convincing in their physical movements, even in violent moments (movement coach Erich DiCenzo).

The play takes place in real time, there are no scenic changes, and the venue is small and intimate. These factors contribute to the feeling that the audience is sitting in the living room with the characters, fully immersed. The scenic and lighting design (also by Graham) features a simulated fireplace the characters gaze into, just inches from the audience. Props that are crucial to the plot are done particularly well, and costumes (Heather C. Jackson) contribute to each character's unique presence.

Led by Shotts' force-of-nature performance, this production allows an opportunity to be drawn into the play's dark comedy and gradually unfolding secrets. It offers a comparison of two couples dealing in a combination of truth and illusion: at first, George and Martha seem to face stark reality as they emotionally abuse each other without a filter, while Nick and Honey appear to be a perfect couple following societal expectations. By the end, of course, it's not so simple.

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? is Zakreski's second time directing serious dramatic fare for the City of Fairfax Theatre Company (the first being the company's production of DOUBT in 2015). Hopefully this community theatre company will continue to bring impactful productions like this one to the stage in Fairfax.

Running time: approximately 3 hours with two 10-minute intermissions.

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? plays through May 8, 2016, at Fairfax City's Old Town Hall, 3999 University Drive, Fairfax, VA 22030. Tickets can be purchased online at www.fairfaxcitytheatre.org.

Show graphic: courtesy of the City of Fairfax Theatre Company website.

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From This Author Barbara Johnson

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