Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, by Edward Albee

Theatron Group | The Greek Theatre, Marrickville, Sydney | Until 17 December

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opened on the Broadway stage in 1962, the year of the Cuban missile crisis, the year Marilyn Monroe died and the year Sonny Liston knocked out Floyd Patterson. It was also a successful and impressive 1996 film featuring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor and was Mike Nichols directorial debut.

Here at the Greek Theatre in Marrackville, more than years on, Albee’s dramatic action is still remarkably real. George a middle-aged New England professor (Nicholas Papademitriou) and his wife Martha (Deborah Galanos), the daughter of the college president, are its focus.

George and Martha like to fight. They also like to drink and, having spent the night at a faculty party and wanting to party on, have invited Nick (Christian Charisiou) and his wife Honey (Adele Querol) into their home.

Partying for George and Martha takes the form of verbal combat, fuelled by copious amounts of alcohol which sustains their ongoing power struggle.

George feels superseded, worthless and weak in his position in the History Department — an artefact of the past — and Albee dramatically juxtaposes him with Nick, a whiz kid from the Biology Department, who embodies the future.

Papademitriou plays George in a composed and assured performance that attempts to balance callousness with barren compassion. Likewise as his sparring partner Martha, Deborah Galanos renders a complex characterisation of a woman struggling to cling to reality whilst simultaneously delivering an astute evocation of a woman incapable of change.

The two lead characters are ably assisted by Christian Charisiou, who forensically spars lines with Papademitriou, and Adele Querol, who gradually impresses more and more as she tracks Honey’s descent from tipsy to paralytic. With physical precision, Querol articulates her drunken thoughts, evoking a touching sense of pathos.

This is a worthy rendering of a classic play. Following the last-minute withdrawal of Shane Bosher, there is no director credited but the first half in particular is impressively sharp. It is also evocatively staged on John-Pryce Jones’ simple but effectively functional set.

It is most reassuring to see that Albee’s play continues to jab at the blurring and redefining of the lines between illusion and reality, and in 2016 still provides a thought-provoking theatrical  experience.

Images: Rocket K Weijers