Review Number One is in for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

Western Reserve Playhouse staging ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

6/6/2019 – West Side Leader

By David Ritchey

Starring in Western Reserve Playhouse’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” are, from left, Dennis Runkle, Kayla Lehman, Max Winer and Mia Radabaugh.
Photo: Chris Douglas

BATH — In 1962, when “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” opened in New York City, playwright Edward Albee (1928-16) changed American theater forever. The Pulitzer Prize Committee nominated “Virginia Woolf” for its top prize. Columbia University, which awards the prize, turned coward and did not award the Pulitzer Prize to any play in 1962.Albee received three other Pulitzer Prizes for other plays. My point is this is one of the most outstanding plays in the American notebook.

Western Reserve Playhouse is staging a blistering production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” The show runs through June 15.

The plot involves a late-night party at the home of George and Martha. George is a member of the faculty at a small New England college. After a party sponsored by the college president, George (Dennis Runkle) and Martha (Mia Radabaugh) invite Nick (Max Winer) and Honey (Kayla Lehman), a new faculty couple, for a late-night drink.

In most productions of “Virginia Woolf,” Martha dominates the ribald games, but in this production, George gets his fair share of the battle. However, in this production Nick roars like a bull attacking the other animals in the barnyard.

Unfortunately, Honey isn’t given the lines and the fight of the other characters.

Director Kelly Strand played to the strengths in the script. She balanced George and Martha and she brought Nick up to their level. She used the strong voices of Martha, George and Nick to the script’s advantage.

Radabaugh plays comedy as well as anyone in Northeast Ohio, but in this production, she plays from the other side of her personality and she plays it well. Is her Martha mean or is she terribly hurt by the disappointments of her life?

Runkle plays his scenes as the waves on the beach. He roars and crashes in and then recedes into quietness.

Winer plays the male ingénue with style. At the beginning of the play, he’s a polite gentleman attending a small faculty party. But as the hosts turn up the heat, his Nick turns up the volume and the physical action.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” isn’t the story of a college/university faculty. This is the story of a marriage filled with soul-searing disappointments.

You have limited time to see this thought-provoking production. Albee is quoted as saying he wants people when “they leave the theater to think about something besides where they parked the car.”

I dare write the people in the audience didn’t think about where they parked their cars as they left. And, I’m sure some of the pillow talk was a comparison of their marriage and Martha and George’s marriage.

For tickets, call 330-620-7314 or visit westernreserveplayhouse.org.

 

David Ritchey has a Ph.D. in communications and is a professor emeritus of communications at The University of Akron. He is a member of the American Theatre Critics Association and the Cleveland Critics Circle.

 

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