Tag Archives: Edward Albee

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

30 Jun

A hell of a lot of people are afraid of Virginia Woolf, turns out (so much so that there’s a sociological work on her as a symbol in 20th century society, I read it for class, NERD ALERT). But this theater piece isn’t necessarily just for fans of the Woolfinator, as I affectionately call her–in fact, it barely mentions her at all. Albee’s play instead deals with two dysfunctional academic couples who slowly spiral out of control.

Published: 1962  (when it was first performed)

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? by Edward Albee

Genre: Theater, drama for sure.

Difficulty: Oof. Not difficult to read…just a little emotionally difficult is all. If you’ve been having a bad week, you might wanna skip this one.

Quick Read: Yes. A good, intense summer read.

Synopsis: A middle-aged couple, Martha (a college president’s daugher) and George (a history professor), invite the new faculty couple on campus to their house late one night after a party. When Nick (a professor like George), and his plain-jane wife Honey finally do stop by, they are forced to watch as Martha and George’s relationship falls apart hard and fast and they provoke each other in every which way. Their emotional “games” with one another are brutal, grating, cruel, and upsetting. Feelings, sexual tensions, and secrets are revealed and flow just as much as the alcohol does throughout (and they drink an INSANE amount of booze). Yet at the end of all of this disorientation, the true tragedy of their relationship is revealed, and their vulnerabilities finally show.

What makes this play awesome? If you’re someone who thinks reading or watching a play is boring, this play is definitely one you ought to check out and give a chance. The verbal action is non-stop. George and Martha’s arguments grow exponentially more violent, absurd, and shocking as the play progresses, and as horrific as it can be, you are totally sucked into their emotional highway to despair.

It’s also an enthralling satire and commentary on academia and the nature of intellectualism. The intellectual mind games, supposedly proving their worth to one another, threaten to tear them apart. It’s an interesting spin on what the definition of smart even really is.

It’s a bruising read, but a quick one, and one that really is unforgettable. It’s a classic theater piece that is as mystifying as it is satisfying, or at least I thought it was. If you have an opinion on that, be sure to leave your feedback, as I’d love to know what others thought.

Albee seems pretty calm for given all the shenanigans he's writin' up. It's always the quiet ones, huh?

Some  neat-o facts: 

  • If the names George and Martha seem like they have a ring to them, it’s because Albee used the names of America’s first First Couple, George and Martha Washington.
  • Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? won a Pulitzer Prize in 1963. Looks like saving the drama for your mama won’t win you any awards then, huh?
  • The movie version (1966) features Liz Taylor as Martha, screaming her lungs out. See below for some of that craziness. Or is it too soon?

If you like this, try: plays by Samuel Beckett, Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates, The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger, This Side of Paradise by F. Scott Fitzgerald