Review: ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” from Theatre Institute at Sage [Berkshire on Stage]

Welcome to fun and games at George and Martha’s! (l to r) Leigh Strimbeck (Martha), David Bunce (George), Alexandra Phillips (Honey) and Matthew McFadden (Nick).

Welcome to fun and games at George and Martha’s! (l to r) Leigh Strimbeck (Martha), David Bunce (George), Alexandra Phillips (Honey) and Matthew McFadden (Nick).

by Gail Burns and Larry Murray

Larry Murray: With the Steppenwolf production of Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf currently on Broadway through February 24, 2013, I was surprised to find that permission was given to the Theatre Institute at Sage College to do the play. But this being the 50th Anniversary of its original Broadway opening on October 13, 1962, there is cause to celebrate. The intensity that director David Baecker has brought to the venerable work actually took my breath away at times, and his superb cast ran the equivalent of a theatrical marathon. How did you find George and Martha, the most famous dysfunctional couple in theatrical history?

Gail Burns: There is nothing easy or pretty about George, Martha, or their marriage. They are messy and brutal and clearly hopelessly dependently in love. It is interesting for me to see this play again now that I’ve been married for 31 years – George and Martha can only claim 23. The more closely you examine it, spending a whole lifetime with another person is an odd concept that is pretty well guaranteed to lead to some sort of insanity! When I first heard that David Bunce would be playing George I felt he didn’t have the right “look” – physically he’s a Wally Cox/Woody Allen/Michael Jeter bespectacled lightweight, a man Martha could snap in two and use as the toothpick for the olive in her martini – but looks can be deceiving! While slight of build, Bunce’s George is positively demonic and not a man to be messed with.

Strimbeck was a no-brainer casting as Martha. She’s a feisty funny feminist in her own right. I love the logo some clever artist has created for her monthly “Read My Lipstick” series at the yBar in Pittsfield. It’s very Martha! Again, she lacks the physical size often associated with Martha. She is not big and blowsy, but she proves conclusively that size doesn’t matter as much as acting ability.

Larry: And she has that in spades. Then there’s Nick and Honey, who go to George and Martha’s for a cocktail and end up in their crosshairs.

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