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In Focus: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

Edward Albee is a master of dialogue. He understands subtext and creates pieces that probe the human experience from a brutally honest perspective. To take on plays of his is to engage in monsters of specificity and subtlety. Few attempt to tackle his work, particularly his older works like Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. With that one there's also that small issue about the film adaptation of the play with a quartet of brilliant performances from Liz Taylor, Richard Burton, Sandy Dennis and George Segal.

East Side Players, in their newest production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, brush this off and take it on with passion and charm and give everything they have doing it. The result is more than noteworthy. It's worth seeing for yourself.

The play is a classic tale that is played out like a modern Shakespearean drama. The writing is extraordinarily dense and there is so much to think about that even the cast members admitted in a Q and A afterwards that people had offered to come a second time because so much was missed the first time.

"Albee makes constant references to other theatre, history, mythology, science and literature and it remains a rich, enormously challenging piece", says director Julian Mulock. "Of particular interest is the exploration of truth and illusion and comedy and tragedy. The play, unlike the film, has opportunities for great lightness and sparkling wit under which lies darkness and tragedy. The trick is to find the lightness and most importantly, redemption."

The play surrounds George and Martha (yes similar to the first founding U.S Family Washington's) who seem to be at the end of their relationship, to put it mildly. Enter the new, young, and happy couple.

Three acts later the world has turned upside down as the beginnings and endings of these relationships show us a much different side to both these couples as they influence one another to honesty, danger, despair and salvation.

"First produced in the early 1960's it shattered widely held illusions about American (and indeed Western) society", "A constantly recurring theme is "truth and/or illusion".

East Side Players' mission is to 'provide a community service to those who enjoy theatre by presenting engaging, affordable shows in a comfortable space'. The theatre, though not perfectly located, is beautiful. The play is powerful and, beyond some lighting miscues, moves smoothly and theatrically. A play like this should not be missed as it is a rarity in the community.

"It is also a play which should leave audience members thinking and talking long after the last curtain; this is certainly not light entertainment, it is full, challenging and literate, a pleasant diversion from instant text messaging!"

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, produced by East Side Players, runs until March 10 at the Papermill Theatre

Photo of Robert Oulette and Kelly Morrison by Max Skwarna, Ashley & Crippen Photographers for these photos.


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