The tumultuous mythology relationships Edward Albee brings to the stage in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? call for high energy and a sense of realism so the actors and audience alike can lose themselves in the show. We are introduced to the leads after they’ve returned from a night of drinking and partying with faculty and staff of the university at which George teaches and of which Martha’s father is president. Martha (Catharine Sullivan) informs George (John Garlicki) that she’s invited visitors, a young couple, new to the university. We gradually discern that things aren’t quite what they seem in the relationships we see on stage, and sparks fly in more ways than one.
The set, designed by Mario Rodrigues, felt raw and authentic, with crumbs littering the carpet, ashtrays full of half-finished cigarettes, and liquor bottles scattered across the mid-century furniture. The small venue added a distinct level of intimacy that worked very much to the show’s advantage. The first act started off with high energy from Sullivan, who immediately commanded the audience’s attention, her physicality lending itself extremely well to the character’s histrionics. John Pacheco’s direction shone through in the naturalness of the characters’ ebb and flow throughout the space to pour drinks--and do things they shouldn’t offstage. The dynamic between Martha and George progressed beautifully going from at first merely passive aggressive to explosive.
Nick (Andre Cormier) and Honey’s (Mara Fraccaro) entrance served as a particularly poignant contrast to George and Martha’s relationship. While the energy of the parties’ interaction felt unbalanced and lacking punch in the first part, it gradually evened out as the show progressed.
The various climaxes of the three acts were handled with a perfect amount of dramatic tension that had the audience hanging on every line. Although the whole cast was fantastic, Sullivan was a force to be reckoned with on stage. She carried the show with a zany portrayal of Martha, and her performance felt unpredictable, even as a viewer that possesses familiarity with the show.
Overall the show was well directed and seamlessly put together. It’s a local production of a classic that will add to viewers’ perceptions and understanding of the classic show and all its complexities. It runs from March 1st-11th at the Palace Theatre,