Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf
Abrons Arts Center, New York City, (866) 811-4111
“Let the games begin,” said David Cote in Observer.com. Only the ghost of Edward Albee could possibly resist the outrageous remix of the playwright’s cage match of a marital drama now lighting up a downtown Manhattan stage. Elevator Repair Service’s latest show instantly reveals every shock withheld until the third act of Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?—and then piles on new ones. Yes, George and Martha once again are infertile: Martha blurts that and much more before their dinner guests, Honey and Nick, even arrive. Once they do, bickering and blatant lusting ensues—only this time, the couples reshuffle into same-sex pairings. Meanwhile, Martha’s banter about the way women are infantilized suggests what’s really going on. Playwright Kate Scelsa is rehabilitating Martha, and giving Albee “a good, hard spank” for making her a crazed harridan.
For about 20 minutes, “the play is very funny,” said Adam Feldman in Time Out New York. Vin Knight, Annie McNamara, and their co-stars come across as amusing cartoons, and director John Collins throws in some clever sight and sound gags. But “zany parodic energy is hard to sustain,” even for 70 minutes, and even with a script filled with cultural references beyond Albee’s play. From the start, Scelsa targets the way Albee and other closeted male playwrights funneled their frustrations into their female characters, but the rage comes through “with increasingly punitive bluntness.” Fortunately, “there’s a cheerfulness in the chaos” that suggests that Scelsa isn’t truly out for blood, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. Though Everyone’s Fine rejects certain elements of Albee’s play, “it also bubbles with a love of theater at its most brazenly theatrical.”
On other stages…
Shakespeare Center of Los Angeles, (213) 481-2273
What happens when you swaddle Tom Hanks in a fat suit and plunk him onstage for an outdoor production of Shakespeare? asked Peter Debruge in Variety. “The answer, in a word, is magic.” So convincing is Hollywood’s Mr. Nice Guy as Falstaff—the mischief-making knight who leads the son of Henry IV astray—that “we may as well be discovering a new actor.” But though Falstaff and Hamish Linklater’s melancholy Prince Hal share the best scenes, those come early, said Charles McNulty in the Los Angeles Times. Because the production condenses Shakespeare’s two-part drama into three-plus hours, the second half feels mildly rushed: “The comedy crackles,” but the politics are blurry, and the ending “pricks but doesn’t draw blood.” Still, Henry IV is hard to get just right, and this staging is “a brave effort, worthy of applause all around.”