There is nothing quite like attending a theatrical production that is flawless in every way! Steppenwolf Theatre has taken on the incredible “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woof” , Edward Albee’s masterpiece of dysfunction, with a new energy under the strong direction of Pam MacKinnon. The cast of four is dynamic in every way in this story about a night in the home George, a college professor, and his wife, Martha, daughter of the college President ,as a new , young professor and his wife, are invited for a little nightcap, after an open house welcoming dinner at the President’s home. The home ( a marvelous set designed by Todd Rosenthal) appears to be uncared for with liquor bottle and half empty glasses all over the place. Martha ( Amy Morton at her absolute best) and George ( Tracy Letts in ne of his most powerful performances) has been married for many years and has lived the “campus life”, with George hoping that one day he might be the head of his history department, but knowing that he is not qualified to ever be. The young couple that comes to visit them, Nick ( deftly handled by Madison Dirks and Honey ( a solid interpretation of the mousy little wife by Carrie Coon) find themselves in for an evening they will never forget.
Martha and George are about as dysfunctional a couple as one might ever come to meet in an entire lifetime. Both of them have created walls around their real lives so that they can cope withthe cards they have been dealt. As George says from time to time “Truth or illusion?”, that is what Albee is getting to. In order to live our lives, do we manufacture other lives so that we do not have to take full responsibility for who we are and what we do? There are many little stories that take place during the course of this evening. How Nick and Honey met and why they became husband and wife.; how they are the “next generation” on the campus!; the discussion about children, the nest generation!: and the games people play in their lives! These are all a part of Albee’s play, an award winning play that was an award winning movie, one that made an imprint on many of our minds during the 1960’s.
As I said earlier, taking on a play that is this well known and this highly regarded by the astsute theater patrons would have been a challenge to avoid by most theater companies, but Steppenwolf has grabbed the bull by the horns and has put a production on its stage that will astound you in every way. Each little detail is done to perfection. The costumes by Nan Cibula-Jenkins, the lighting by Allen Lee Hughes, The sound by Rob Milburn and Michael Bodeen and the fight choreography by Nick Sandys are all part of the makeup of a theatrical experience that will leave you in awe and make you proud to have a theater like Steppenwolf in Chicago. This production truly shows why they are a shining star in our theater community.
The work of these four powerful actors in making their characters very real ,is amazing. The relationships that we are watching unfold and break right before our eyes are thought provoking. Coon’s Honey is the strongest I have ever seen in that she is not portrayed as only a whimering soul, but rather a woman who knows what she has created for her life. Dirks gives Nick the right macho touch as the trapped man who knowing he was indeed trapped ,allowed his life to be swayed for the pot at the end of the rainbow and Martha and George! What can one say about two beautiful character studies that Morton and Letts bring to new heights, except BRAVO! This is a truly spectacular production under the perfect guidance of MacKinnon.
Your opportunity to watch this skillful cast make every Albee word be heard, as it was wrtten, will last until February 13th at Steppenwolf Theatre located at 1650 N. Halsted with performances as follows:
Tuesday through Sundays at 7:30 p.m. ( Sunday evenings until January 16th)
Saturday and Sunday afternoons at 3 p.m.
Wednesday matinees 2 p.m. on January 19th, 26th and February 9th
NO PERFORMANCE on Friday, December 24th and NO PERFORMANCES on Christmas Day or New Year’s Day.
Ticket prices range from $20-$75 and are available at the box office, by phone at 312-335-1650 or online at www.steppenwolf.org
Online: Students can purchase $15 tickets by using the code: “VIRGINIA 15” ( limit 2 and must bring student ID to box office)
20 FOR $20: twenty $20 tickets are available at audience services begining at 11 am.m. on day of performance ( 1 p.m. on Sundays) and half price RUSH tickets will go on sale ( subject to availability one hour prior to each show).
Post show discussions will take place after every performance ( no charge). FYI- the play runs three hours including 2 intermissions.
If you only have one play to see this year, make it “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”! You will not be sorry!