Edward Albee’s 1962 classic play has been adapted numerous times throughout the decades but never like the immersive performance put on by Debbie and Hank Crowder this holiday season.
Set in their own living room to an intimate audience of me and my girlfriend, this production was experimental theater at its finest. With a run time of three straight days, the actors captured the essence of George and Martha while taking huge liberties with the source material.
This very loose adaptation answers the question: What if George and Martha were thirty years older, worked in the corporate world instead of academia, and actually had a real son (me)?
The veteran duo put on a tour de force of hostility through a mix of psychological games and board games. What started as some light bickering on whether “pink pigs” should count as two points in Scattergories quickly escalated to Martha announcing that she could’ve had an affair with my old gym teacher twenty years ago. “And you would’ve never found out,” she sneers as George quietly mutters to himself while scrolling through DraftKings on his phone.
In a radical departure from the original script, Nick and Honey do not make an appearance until the second act. Played brilliantly by their neighbors Tom and Rebecca Hausman, the friendly young couple stops by to drop off some snickerdoodles, but quickly finds themselves ensnared in Martha and George’s argument about whether they have watched a show on Netflix called Master Bake Off. Honey’s attempt to settle the dispute is rebuffed, and the focus quickly shifts to Martha apologizing on behalf of George for the state of their house, which causes George to grab Martha’s beloved Christmas-themed Precious Moments figurine and say, “You haven’t seen a mess yet, darling.” Nick and Honey eventually slink off but not before the damage has been done. Although their stage time is relatively short, their incredibly natural performances are memorable.
One could argue that the third main character in this show is the set. Meticulously designed by Target and Marshalls, the welcoming decor provides a beautifully stark contrast to the show’s themes, especially during the climax of the third act. Take, for instance, the fight over what to do with my declining Nonna. This intense exchange takes place in front of a rustic farmhouse “Home” sign. It’s a stunning example of master craftsmanship.
That’s not to say the show is for everyone. My girlfriend found the production to be “too intense.” However, I think she would have appreciated it more if she didn’t miss a big chunk of the show on account of feeling tired and needing to lay down in the guest room for long periods of time.
The Crowders’ highly imaginative production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? runs now until I pull out of the driveway on New Year’s Day.