Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Albee’s Virginia Woolf mercilessly, deliberately grinds human relationships into mincemeat.

By HELEN KAYE
November 18, 2018 21:31
1 minute read.
GIL FRANK and Maya Maoz in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?’

GIL FRANK and Maya Maoz in ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf?’. (photo credit: Courtesy)

 
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We are living in a brutal world. Fascism is on the rise. The US president is pressing the fear button with every tweet, and our own government is demanding that we pay it fealty and think as it does – or else. This is the climate into which Ilan Ronen has thrust his well-nigh perfect, explosive, coarse-sandpaper production of Albee’s classic, abetted by Dori Parnes’s unflinching translation, and by Yelena Carlreich’s splendid costuming.

It is two in the morning. Under Meir Alon’s pitiless lighting, Niv Manor’s white, two bench, two bar set looks like the boxing ring it’s designed to resemble. Martha (Maya Maoz) and George (Gil Frank) walk into it already half-plastered from an obligatory faculty party given by her university president dad, where George, according to Martha’s poison-tipped verbal shafts, has as usual failed to shine.

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George just wants to go to bed, but no, guests are coming. New faculty “Daddy says we have to be nice to.” But as they come through the door, beige-clad, nondescript Mitzi (Daniel Gal) and Nick (Roy) are press-ganged into the brawl. When the drunken, verbal Armageddon ends, all are shattered.

Albee’s Virginia Woolf mercilessly, deliberately grinds human relationships into mincemeat. Ronen’s version adds menace, adds uncertainty, does not peel the surface civility but claws it off.

“Awesome” defines Maoz’s Martha, who combines the manners of a wolverine, a spitting cobra’s unerring aim and an ostentatious crassness with a voluptuousness Cleopatra might envy, plus the slowly increasing fright of an unloved child. I said of Gil Frank’s superb George in the excellent 2009 production at the Cameri that he pulled the strings and the others danced to his tune. So he does here, but this George’s strings are barbed wire to hook prey. This essential George doesn’t bother to hide his intelligence, out of which an essential compassion first flickers, then burns clear.


Nondescript? As the night begins to wane the drink and the venom pierce Gal’s helpless, gormless Mitzi and push her feral side through the crack. And Roy Miller’s earnest, anxious to please young intellectual is revealed as the greedy thug Nick really is.

Big bouquets to everybody.

Why is this Virginia Woolf so superb? Because, as well as everything else, it is so alive.

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