“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Richard Kerrigan (L.), Rafferty, Thunes, and Mc Carthy, (extreme right) as George, Nick, Honey, and Martha
Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was considered shocking when it premiered in 1962 because of his free use of swear words coming from an academic married couple and their blatant display of rampant alcoholism and verbal abuse. Few of us, if any, had seen that production with the incomparable Uta Hagen as Martha and Arthur Hill as George. Most remember the movie starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.
In Ken Bacon’s abbreviated production at his charmingly appointed Belrose Theatre in San Rafael, “Woolf” is astutely directed by Terry McGovern from a script adapted by Ernest Lehman (who had used his script for the film). Molly McCarthy is no blowsy, frumpy Martha, but the svelte, well-groomed wife of a tolerant, unflappable George, regardless of what Martha throws at him. (George is played by a natural, composed, except when called for, Richard Kerrigan). He is the head of the history department in a fictional Northeastern college run by Martha’s father, which is a sticking point in their marriage, along with the not so well kept secret of their child. McCarthy and Kerrigan are supported by Georgia Thunes as Honey, and Tulley Rafferty as Nick, the young couple whom they had invited in for an after-party drink. This talented cast more than meets the demands of the script without overdoing it or becoming caricatures.
Georgia Thunes’s slow transition from a proper young woman fueled by alcohol to a loose-limbed, flirtatious drunk is marvelous. Nick’s realization that he has no idea how to “take” this couple who stop at nothing to demean each other as well as them, and George’s belittlement of Nick is also so well executed. We are with these people every step of the way.
One can see “Woolf” any number of times and yet still be blown away by the manner in which secrets are revealed, the “games” played, and the sexuality. With a less insightful director and a less talented cast, the play couldn’t work. Timing, reaction, and deep understanding of the character one is playing must be spot on, which, thankfully, Mc Govern’s cast delivers.
Kerrigan and McCarthy as George and Martha
Kudos to set designer Eugene DeChristopher; Lighting, Frank Sarubi; Tech, Rich Banghart, and Sandy Lelich, costumes.
Through October 24, Belrose Theatre, San Rafael.