George and Martha are back and at it again, meaner (and better) than ever, in Intrepid Theatre Company’s terrific production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Intrepid is in guest residency through March 13 at Lamb’s Players’ downtown Horton Grand Theatre for the run of this show, and Intrepid’s Christy Yael-Cox directs what may be the best production ever of this classic portrait of two people massively unhappy together but inextricably attached.
George is a soft-spoken associate history professor lacking in what Martha would call ambition. She is the outspoken (to put it mildly) daughter of the college president.
On this night, they’ve just returned from a faculty function.
It’s 2:30 am and George is sinking contentedly into his scotch when she informs him they are expecting company: new biology professor Nick and his mousy wife Honey. It will be a bumpy ride, especially for the unsuspecting guests.
Playing George and Martha are two staples of local theater: Robert and Deborah Gilmour Smyth, who have run and acted at Lamb’s Players Theatre for some 30 years. They are, hands down, the best George and Martha I have ever seen.
George sits in his chair, unassuming, sardonic, content with his lot and his lack of drive. Gilmour Smyth’s Martha is a force of nature, restless, pacing like a lion looking for dinner, finally settling on Ross Helwig’s Nick, from whom she can at least elicit a response.
Helwig, too, is the best Nick I’ve seen, spunkier than George and giving as good as he gets while trying not to cross any line that might cost him the new job.
Erin Petersen has the thankless job of playing the cipher Honey, who has little to say and can’t hold her liquor. She does what she can with a character who will be sick in the bathroom for much of the play.
Meanwhile, Martha will try to drown her sorrows (not all about George’s lack of drive; there’s a whole subtext about their son that will play out eventually) with liquor and playing vicious games like “Hump the Hostess” and “Get the Guests.”
This is high-level hostility, fascinating to watch in the same way a car crash is.
The atmosphere is enhanced by Mike Buckley’s meticulously appointed set, Jeanne Reith’s costumes (especially those for Martha), Curtis Mueller’s lighting and Kevin Anthenill’s sound and original music.
“Virginia Woolf” is a sort of psychological cage match with two well-seasoned opponents. Will George and Martha stay together?
You need to see this terrific production, even if you know the answer.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” plays through March 13, 2016 at the Horton Grand Theatre, 444 Fourth Avenue in the Gaslamp Quarter.
Thursday at 7:30 p.m.; Friday at 8 pm; Saturday at 2 and 8 pm; Sunday at 2 pm
Tickets: (619) 437-6000 or intrepidtheatre.org