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NY1 Theater Review: "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?"

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Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?" is back on Broadway, marking the 50th anniversary of the celebrated play. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

It has been seven years since those battling boozers George and Martha last took up a Broadway residence. But this time the tables are turned a bit.

The Steppenwolf production of the 1962 drama "Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf," featuring a non-star cast, digs deep to produce a new dynamic in the couple's relationship, and what's unearthed is the freshest of looks at the rottenest of marriages.

Director Pam McKinnon and her sensational company take on Albee's masterpiece by ditching the standard treatment featuring Martha as the earth mother from hell and George as her out-gunned soul mate.

In this production, it's George who emerges on top. And while Martha is still a nasty piece of work, George is pound-for-pound the tougher of the two. The result is a fascinating reworking of the drama in which every line has unexpected meaning and we're forced to listen anew to Albee's ferociously funny dialogue.

Martha is the daughter of a college president and George is an embittered history professor. Defined by mutual disgust, their miserable marriage is fueled by loads of liquor. On this late night, they play host to an ambitious young biology teacher and his mousy wife; and no one escapes the toxic environment unscathed.

As the unwitting guests, Madison Dirks and Carrie Coon, manage their descents with both horror and humor. The excellent Amy Morton gives Martha a hint of heart beneath the steely frame. But Tracy Letts as George is the stunner here. Methodically eviscerating anyone in his path, he is terrifyingly funny and hysterically monstrous.

Every time I see this play, the characters' ultra masochism seems at odds with the play's naturalism. How can they drink so much and why do they subject themselves to such abuse? But this time it makes a kind of sick sense. Marriage as a blood sport is hopelessly addictive; and as portrayed here, we are glued to the carnage.

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