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BWW Review: Edward Albee's WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? at Ford's Theatre

Maybe it's the innate aura of Ford's Theatre. Maybe it's the enduring legacy of playwright Edward Albee and his Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Whatever it may be, the atmosphere in the lobby pre-performance was that of a party.

No curtain rises. The set for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? greets the audience. Scenic Designer Meghan Raham's mammoth two-story set is a cross-section of a well-worn New England home. Raham has a talent for fashioning hominess out of clutter, meticulous in its haphazardness. Director Aaron Posner's actors make themselves at home, re-arranging books and magazines, fluffing pillows, moving and standing on furniture and more.

The lights dim. It's 2 am. Martha (Holly Twyford) and associate History Professor George (Gregory Linington) burst into their living room. Soused after a faculty party, they tease each other about their ages (a recurrent theme) and Martha suggests (commands) a drink and George agrees, a nightcap couldn't hurt. But then Martha makes the pivotal announcement: she's invited a new faculty member and his wife over for drinks.

Biology Professor Nick (Danny Gavigan) and his ditzy, "slim-hipped" wife Honey (a familiar type role for Maggie Wilder) are young, polite and slightly drunk. Nevertheless, they are determined to make a good impression, after all Martha is the daughter of their college. But George and Martha have other plans for their guests.

George and Martha enjoy cruel games, with each other and with their guests. On the table tonight: "Humiliate the Host," "Get the Guests," "Hump the Hostess," and "Bringing Up Baby."

As the drinks flow, their quips turn bitter. George compares Martha's age to her weight (decidedly more) and Martha tells the tale of her husband's great failures. Nick and Honey are their audience and playthings. At the end of the night both couples are left picking up the pieces of their dysfunctional marriage.

From the outset, Albee's characters are shockingly volatile. They curse, they drink and they revel in inflecting pain. It's funny, heartbreaking and yes, slightly familiar. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? may have debuted in 1962 but the truth it provokes still feels relevant.

Twyford's portrayal of Martha is undoubtedly one of the best stage performances you are liable to see in DC this year. She is a loud and crass, tackling a wide range of frenetic, explosive emotions with a winning smile and bright eyes. In sharp contrast, Linington's George is slightly stooped and calculating, but kind (to Martha). Posner has George remain onstage during the Act I intermission. He tidies up a bit and then settles himself on a stool in quiet contemplation of his next move.

Linington's George ensures that Twyford can be a truly over-the-top Martha. Costume Designer Kelsey Hunt and Hair and Makeup Designer Anne Nesmith have even rendered a Martha that is reminiscent of Elizabeth Taylor in all her boozey glory.

In the end, the over three hours of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a bit of a blur. The games Martha and George play make it difficult to separate truth from fiction but through all the mud slinging, Twyford and Linington make it crystal clear: there is great love between George and Martha.

As a friend and ardent fan of Edward Albee, Theatre Director Paul R. Tetreault prefaces the performance with the revelation that it has long been his great desire to bring Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? to Ford's Theatre. And I am happy he did.

Ford's Theare will be hosting a Under 35 Night performance on February 3 at 6pm and a post-performance Meet and Mingle Night on February 12 at 12pm.

Running Time: 3 hours and 15 minutes, including two 10 minute intermissions

Advisory: Adult themes and language

WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF? runs until February 19th at Ford's Theatre located at 511 Tenth St NW, Washington, DC, 20004. For tickets call (888) 616-0270or click here.

Photo credit: (Left to right) Holly Twyford as Martha, Danny Gavigan as Nick, Maggie Wilder as Honey and Gregory Linington as George in the Ford's Theatre production of Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf," directed by Aaron Posner. Photo by Scott Suchman.

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