First performed in 1962, ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’ is a classic play taking place over one long night when a couple hosts after-party drinks with another younger couple, who have recently moved to the area.
Popular American culture of the time emphasised the importance of a happy family, which is reflected by having kids and owning a house, and a car and a dog. The play crudely reveals how these exterior trappings of success often conceal a very different reality for the individuals and marriages inside these families.
When it opened, this controversial play simultaneously shocked and pleased audiences. Whilst it was successful at the box office, some audiences and critics found its language and content challenging. Despite the mixed views, the play won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1962. The 1966 film adaptation starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton was also a resounding commercial success. For the first time in history, all four actors in the movie were nominated for individual Academy Awards.
In essence, the play is about the shattering of illusions. On the surface, all four intelligent, privileged characters should come across as ideal citizens representing the best of American culture. Yet, their descent into extreme behaviour during the course of one night reveals a very different picture of American life less than 20 years after World War 2.
Neither of the relationships in the play is portrayed as healthy and stable. We get a glimpse of the warped sense of values all four characters uphold and the illusions both couples create to keep their marriages intact. The play attempts to reveal the raw, human truth often concealed beneath this glossy exterior. The two principal characters, George and Martha, exist in a land of fantasy and make-believe and reveal their most basic instincts and desires. Games have become such an important part of their lives that they cannot exist without them.
As the drinking increases through the night, stories and secrets are revealed, sexual proclivities occur, and George decides to play the biggest game of all. During the last act, the truth unfolds as everyone’s secrets are purged and illusions are torn down.
The play opens on Thursday, April 20, and runs up to, and including, Thursday, April 27. The play starts at the earlier start time of 7.30pm. Please note that the Sunday April 23 performance commences at 3pm rather than an evening performance.
The cast consists of Emer Dunne who plays Martha, Richard Brennan who plays George, Katherine Wheatley who plays Honey and John Quinlan who plays Nick. Ollie Hegarty directs ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’