Albee's 1962 psychological parlor drama is practically the ur-text for a brand of theater that tends to drive me nuts: the "theater of recriminations," in which friends and/or family members let loose with venomous reproaches towards one another based on accumulated bitterness. It takes a special writer--and special care from a production team--to prevent these tales from degenerating into little more than exchanges of snarled insults.
And it's clear that Albee is a special writer, finding blistering humor as well as profound sadness in the story of George (Jared Larkin) and Martha (Teresa Sanderson), who have invited over Nick (Mike Brown)--a new young colleague of George's on the faculty of a small New England college--and Nick's wife Honey (Amanda Hayter for the performance reviewed, sharing the role with Marin Kohler) for drinks. Unfortunately, Nick and Honey are about to see the worst of what is already a fragile marriage.
Director L.L. West stages the production in the round--or, more accurately, in the square--at Westminster College's small student theater space, placing the audience right on top of the cast. It's a perfect choice for simulating the awkwardness of actually being in the room for these awkward exchanges and wishing, like Nick and Honey, that there were an easy opportunity to escape.
But you'll also be glad you didn't miss a moment of the magnificent central performances. It's a tremendous challenge to find a flow to Albee's text, which has characters bouncing almost psychotically between moods over the course of nearly three increasingly-drunken hours that play out more or less in real time. And yet Larkin and Sanderson are particularly up to the task, scraping every ounce of corroded affection and toxic self-loathing from these damaged people. It rarely feels merely like "theater of recriminations," because Pinnacle's production exposes the wounded people who are spewing them. It's a terrifically painful thing to behold.
Pinnacle Acting Company: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Westminster College Jewett Center for the Performing Arts
1250 E. 1700 South
$15 general admission
Friday, June 27 @ 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, June 28 @ 2 p.m.
Saturday, June 28 @ 7:30 p.m.