Monday, January 13, 2014

No Liz And Dick, But Whatcha Gonna Do

After the enjoyable performance a couple of weeks ago of "It's A Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play" at the Orlando Shakespeare Theater I decided to plunk down another fabulously-cheap $22 to see a production of Edward Albee's play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Instead of the Orlando Shakespeare Theater players though, this was performed by a troupe called Cornerstone Theatre Company.

Now don't let the title of this review throw you. It really wasn't all that bad. It was kinda good actually. I checked out other performances of the play on YouTube by other acting groups and the one I attended had a lot going for it. The actors portraying the four roles did a pretty darn good job. Through each hour of the very long (3+ hours) play, I kept thinking how skilled they all were for being able to remember that many lines. Apparently Albee, like Tennessee Williams, scripted his plays with an enormous emphasis on dialogue. Page after page of dialogue.

But when it all came down to brass tacks, I couldn't help making a comparison to the actors live on stage and their counterparts on the big screen shot back in 1966 with none other than Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the starring roles as George and Martha. Thankfully the present day actors didn't try to do impressions of those iconic and legendary movie stars...that would have turned the thing into a farce. They did it in their own way. But the chemistry in the film, so obvious when you watch it, just wasn't there in this play.

At times I swear I could hear stage direction mnemonics being recited in my head as if it was being broadcast from the actors since it seemed a bit obvious that they'd paced their lines along with the many prop manipulations and stage movements they needed to perform.

Shall we play Get the Guests, Martha? (Pick up bottle.) I mean...(Pour gin into glass)...now that we've done Humiliate the Host...(Saunter to center stage near couch)...what other games shall we...(Hand glass to Martha)...entertain our guests with? (Thrust hips violently towards Martha) How about Hump the Hostess?

Well, I guess with so much dialogue and stage direction, I guess they had to.

It was cool that towards the end of the second act, the faux-Chippendale sofa suffered a broken leg...it just popped out from the corner of the couch onto the floor. The actors handled this prop malfunction perfectly. The guy playing George picked it up after the Martha character had tried to kick it out of the way and attempted to slap it back into place saying, surely improvised, "Everything in this house is falling apart." I had to check other performances of the play to be sure this was not already scripted since it actually works perfectly. The broken leg of the couch became a metaphor for their broken marriage and their warped, alcohol-fueled need to manipulate, molest and grandstand each other and others around them.

In truth, I wasn't able to see the whole play though. I'd selected an 8:00 pm performance on a work night thinking I'd be able to go into work right afterwards. But I didn't know it was so long. During the second intermission, I had to leave and drive away otherwise I would have been faced with walking out during the finally scene of the performance. The theater was small and intimate, great for visibility and proximity to the stage, but bad for retaining audience anonymity...they would have easily seen me leaving mid act. Or I could have stayed to the 11:30-ish end, but then I'd be late for work. Not a good option.

But I'd seen the movie a few times. I know how that ends. I wouldn't expect the play, from which the movie was spawned, to be that much different. Like all liquor drenched stories, it's kinda tragic.

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