Still time to see LTM's 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?'
By Christian Mysliwiec - Staff Writer
Manchester - posted Thu., Feb. 21, 2013
There is still time to see the first play of the 2013 season at The Little Theatre of Manchester, from Friday, March 1, to Sunday, March 3. LTM has opened the new year with the Pulitzer Prize-nominated play “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” This is the 50th anniversary of Edward Albee's celebrated – and controversial – drama.
One only has to read the notes from the director, Sara Logan, to get a feel for the heavy themes the play explores: “Albee's play 'Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?' is powerful and provocative. His characters are educated, middle-class people who ostensibly represent the best of American culture, yet we watch them descend into barbaric behavior during the course of the evening.”
Set in the college town of New Carthage, the play revolves around a couple, George and Martha, who have been together for 23 years. Martha is the daughter of the president of the university. George is an associate professor “who has never really climbed the ladder” at the college. After a faculty party, they invite over a young couple, Nick and Honey. “And they basically spend the evening destroying each other in a battle of wits,” said Logan. “I would call it a sick, twisted love story.”
Logan describes Edward Albee as “probably the most famous living playwright.” When “Virginia Woolf” first opened in the 1960s, it was considered very controversial because of the language and content. “And it still holds its own,” said Logan. “It's still as relevant today as it was 50 years ago.” Dealing with themes of what is real and what is illusion, it is rich with symbol and metaphor. With such a dense script, it can be a daunting play to produce. “What you need to carry it off is a cast as professional as the one I've got,” said Logan. “You have to have the intelligence to understand the play because it's difficult. It's got many, many layers.”
“When you have someone like Mike Zizka, who plays George, you know you're going to get a fabulous performance,” Logan said. “The irony, the sarcasm – he delivers. And he delivers the final blow in the end. He's very powerful.”
Zizka is also the artistic director for the play. In his notes, he describes the play as possessing “a remarkably varied emotional fabric.”
“Albee’s triumph was to create a fully-developed portrait of a gravely troubled marriage in all its discordant colors - longing, frustration, sadness, anger and bitterness,” he wrote. “Yet all suffused with deep affection and the profoundly human need for contact and support.”
As the lead actress, Freund delivers a powerful performance. “Her performance is almost heartbreaking, I would say,” said Logan.
Freund is a veteran actor and director at LTM, and is directing LTM's next show, “Our Town.” She considers the role of Martha an iconic character in American theater. “She is child-like and she's incredibly vulnerable. And she's a harridan,” said Freund. “It's a wonderfully complex role. There's so much in it.”
Zizka and Freund are joined by Jim Power and Trish Urso, who play Nick and Honey. With a cast of four carrying a three-hour-long play, much is demanded of every actor, and Freund believes the cast has equaled the challenge. “Because it's a four-person show, every person is so valuable. The machine doesn't work unless all four cogs are moving,” she said. “It's what's called a gestalt: it is greater than the sum of its parts.”
Freund considers Logan's ability to direct “an actor's dream.”
“She wants people to explore and grow within their characters,” she said. “She wants people to discover what's happening with their characters, where they come from and where they're going to.”
With such a dense script, with layer upon layer of meaning, interpreting Albee's play is a tall order for even the most experienced actor. “I've done at least 150 shows in my lifetime, and this is the hardest one,” said Freund.
Many consider “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” to be the most important American theatrical work. “It's had this huge success on Broadway right now,” Freund said. “It's closing in a couple of weeks. For many people, this will be their last opportunity to see the show. It will be a while before the revival happens again.”
Showtimes are Friday, March 1, and Saturday, March 2, at 8 p.m., and Sunday, March 3, at 2 p.m. The show sponsor is Rockville Bank, and Pratt & Whitney is the 2013 season sponsor.
The Little Theatre of Manchester is located at Cheney Hall, 177 Hartford Road. For more information, visit www.cheneyhall.org.