It was at once an honor, a joy and a trauma to work on Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Albee crafted one of the great American theatre scores, a soaring, searing jazz-opera written “in the key of marriage,” as critic Peter Lewis once put it. Virginia Woolf is a perfectly unsolvable mystery, not unlike a human being or longstanding relationship. With uncommon panache, unapologetic honesty, and deeply felt wit, Albee expertly conducts his quartet of voices in their arias, duets, trios and quartets about not only marriage, but the American dream, the blurry line between truth and illusion, and the direct connections between each of us and our collective national character.
Our hope with this production was to put the breadth of possibilities inherent in what Albee wrote front and center, to clear away the familiar nicknacks and casting tropes and make the play itself clear, visible, and audible. Now that may seem pretty basic. But it was really hard! To begin with, Albee took pains to make it hard! I’m grateful to him for assuming the intelligence of his audience, not to mention our appetite for the truth, and for trusting us all—no matter how often various of us might argue with him on this or that—to engage with what he offers.
But also, there are those of us who come to Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with our expectations firmly in place, something often the case with great and well-known classics. Expectations are famous for killing possibilities. And so this is the opportunity with classics: to question expectation, to see and hear anew. Luckily, many more than not who attended the Shotgun production seemed excited by the possibilities in Albee's play, and the production enjoyed a very engaged response throughout its run. ...And it sold more drinks at intermission than any other show in the season. Just sayin'.