Book #32: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, by Edward Albee

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf

During the course of my Modern American Drama class, there have been several benchmark plays that I’ve been most excited to read, particularly those that are renowned as classics. Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? obviously has a spot on that list; the play and 1966 film adaptation are both modern classics. After finishing the play, I had a hard time really deciding how I felt about it. It’s incredibly l0ng for a play and it feels repetitive and bizarre on the page. After watching the film, though, the story makes much more sense, and I had a much clearer understanding of the play as a whole.

In comparison with Albee’s other works, Virginia Woolf is a more mild form of Theatre of the Absurd, but that also doesn’t mean that it’s a “normal” play. Suffice it to say that I really, really wouldn’t want to find myself stuck in the lives of these characters. It would not be pleasant. If you don’t know anything about the plot (like me before reading it), the play takes place in real time as George and Martha invite Nick and Honey over at 2:30 in the morning for a drink after they’ve all been at a party together. Martha’s father is the president of a university where George teaches History, and Nick is a new, young member of the Biology department. This all may sound a bit mundane, but the play moves quickly and is much more shocking that you might imagine.

I also got to kill two birds with one stone by watching the film adaptation since I’ve set a goal of watching ten films from the AFI Top 100 list this year. I’m not sure I’ve ever really seen Elizabeth Taylor in anything before, but she’s absolutely amazing in her portrayal of Martha, a performance for which she won an Academy Award. There are a few small changes to Albee’s version, but the film is almost an exact representation of his work. Even though it’s nearly fifty-years-old, it’s still very modern and one you should definitely watch if you’re a fan of classic films.

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