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REVIEW: BU Stage Troupe brings passion, detail to “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

From Oct. 30 to Nov. 1, the Boston University Stage Troupe put on a production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” The show shares an intense interest with its titular modernist author in revealing the emotional truth that hides behind illusion. “Virginia Woolf” is infamous among theater fans for being an incredibly complex and thought-provoking work of art, and BU Stage Troupe’s production reflected these intricacies in every way.

Isabella Walpole (COM ’15), Kyle Tague (COM ’16), Kyle Mitchell (CAS ’16) and Emily Prescott (CAS/SED ‘16) perform as Honey, Nick, George and Martha in Boston University Stage Troupe's production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Saturday night at the Agganis Student Theater. PHOTO BY OLIVIA NADEL/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF
Isabella Walpole (COM ’15), Kyle Tague (COM ’16), Kyle Mitchell (CAS ’16) and Emily Prescott (CAS/SED ‘16) perform as Honey, Nick, George and Martha in Boston University Stage Troupe’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Saturday night at the Agganis Student Theater. PHOTO BY OLIVIA NADEL/DAILY FREE PRESS STAFF

The stage opened on a messy-yet-cozy living room. Pillows and books were strewn about as main characters George and Martha returned home from a night of drinking. George, played by Kyle Mitchell, is a college professor of history. His lack of career success is a point of contention in his marriage, one that his wife is all too willing to exploit.

Mitchell brought George’s quick wit and amusing retorts to life. His portrayal perfectly fit his playful character and was the source of a significant portion of the show’s comedy. As the show went on, he was able to perfectly adapt his range to George’s increasingly frequent moments of aggression and sadness.

Emily Prescott played Martha, George’s wife. Martha’s father is the president of the university where George is employed. She and George amuse themselves by playing emotional games that most frequently center on insulting and degrading one another. Martha is undoubtedly a character whose loud and abrasive nature is intended to take center stage, but it was at times difficult to pick up on the more tender and revealing moments of the show due to Prescott’s aggressive portrayal.

George and Martha receive guests just after they arrive home. Their antagonism toward each other in their “games” continues throughout the night and progressively makes their guests, Nick and Honey (Kyle Tague and Isabella Walpole, respectively), uncomfortable. As the two hosts get increasingly drunk, secrets are told about both sides, and in a game called “Get the Guests,” Honey is insulted to the point where she locks herself in the bathroom.

Nick and Honey are, as Albee has written them, relatively weak characters in comparison to the eccentric George and Martha. Honey has very few lines, most of which are during a deep state of intoxication. Despite this, Walpole has a moment of amazing emotional intensity at the end of “Get the Guests” where she commands the audience’s attention.

Nick, a biology professor, is the ideological force that most opposes George. Their relationship is a direct parallel of the conflict between fact and interpretation. But even with this conceptual rivalry, there was not much of a raging fight between the two. It was at times difficult to discern whether or not Tague’s passivity as Nick was intended. Admittedly, it was incredibly difficult for any character to eclipse Mitchell’s electric performance.

The central conflict of the show involves Martha breaking a key rule to the emotional games, bringing into question both George and Martha’s marriage and the audience’s perception of reality. A telling exchange of dialogue toward the end of the third act causes the audience to wonder exactly how much of the story so far has been an illusion on the part of George or Martha. The cast and crew did a marvelous job of keeping the audience intrigued and drawing them into the mind-bending world of “Virginia Woolf.”

The true passion for the show can be seen in the details. The musical direction by Celia Gibson and Idine Mousavi sent shivers up many spines every time a quiet repeated tune played in the background throughout the show.

Directors Daniel Ehrenpreis and Shoshana Koff also made a fine addition to the show in the assignment of a particular color to each character. Each character was assigned a color throughout the production: Martha was red, Honey was yellow, George was purple and Nick was green. These colors were seen in the drinks the characters consumed throughout the play, the makeup on the women’s faces and the hair color of the men. This complemented the show’s focus on the illusory. Under their assured leadership, the whole team was able to elegantly raise the questions intended by Albee’s classic play.

CORRECTION: A previous version of this article stated that the show ran from oct. 30 to Nov. 1. The story has been updated to reflect this change.

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One Comment

  1. Thank you for reviewing our production! We are very glad you enjoyed our vision!

    Two Suggested edits though:
    1) The dates of the show was Oct. 30th – Nov. 1st.

    2) Sound design was done by Aryeh Harris-Shapiro and Joe McLaughlin!
    Thank you very much, and we appreciate the positive review!