Review: Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? (The Greek Theatre)

Venue: The Greek Theatre (Marrickville NSW), Nov 25 – Dec 17, 2016
Playwright: Edward Albee
Director: uncredited
Cast:  Christian Charisiou, Deborah Galanos, Nicholas Papademetriou, Adele Querol
Image by Rocket K Weijers

Theatre review
Martha and George have a sado-masochistic relationship, one that requires a heavy dose of exhibitionism to function. Edward Albee’s play does not put their sex life on display, but the couple’s existence is a chaotic one, in which joy and pain are intensely experienced, with little in terms of boundaries differentiating between the two. George’s emasculation is at the centre of all the action, along with Martha’s anguish under the glass ceiling. Finding herself without opportunities to live up to her father’s professional eminence, she resents George for failing to reach those heights on her behalf. There are very big problems in their marriage, and they find resolution through ruthless arguments, but only in the presence of other people.

The masterpiece says a lot about human nature, and it is through the immense complexity of Albee’s characters that we gain access to some very deep truths about ourselves. The roles are hugely challenging, and performances garner mixed results in this production, which incidentally comes with uncredited directorship. Nicholas Papademetriou does a respectable job as George, believable as the pussy-whipped, deflated middle-aged academic, but lacking in the toxic bitterness that is required to drive the play. The character is weak, but also full of anger, and the actor never quite convinces us of George’s dangerous sides. Martha is much bolder, as interpreted by the dynamic Deborah Galanos. Wild, volatile and carnal, it is an energetic performance that the production relies on for its vigour. Christian Charisiou and Adele Querol are memorable as the show’s supporting players, both charming and considered in their approach, demonstrating a strong level of conviction that makes their work persuasive.

In Who’s Afraid Of Virginia Woolf? men are supposed to look, act and think a certain way. The rules may not be explicitly stated, but we know what they are, and in these characters’ suffering, we see that those standards are unrealistic, and in fact, harmful. They all busy themselves with roles assigned by society, but no one is fulfilled. We spend much of our lives carrying out expectations that come from the external. Like any other social creature that walks the earth, it is impossible to extricate oneself from the herd. We can try to turn introspective and find desires that seem to be only personal, but we can never be sure of its authenticity. What is doubtless, is our ability to change society. In Albee’s dark universe, lie the clues for letting the light come in.

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