Sunday, January 31, 2016

Albee, Edward (Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?)

I can still recall how visceral the movie felt to me. How could it not: two stellar actors, both with oodles of history between them, aging themselves appropriately, working their butts off? It's way more than that, of course, since it's dependent on the strength of this writing. But I couldn't read the play without seeing Taylor and Burton every step of the way.

I do wonder what it was like to see on the stage (veteran actor Uta Hagen said she would play Martha twelve times a week, if given the chance). It must have been unbelievably vital, raw, scarring and despondent when seen in the flesh. Pure gold for theatre actors, and usually very hard to translate to the screen (one-room plays lose vitality as moving pictures).

But the written play! Well, obviously I wouldn't still remember the movie or want to see it on stage if I didn't think the writing was stellar. But it's a hard read - a knock-down dragged-out fight that will have you so uncomfortable you want to go look at unicorns and rainbows for a while. The perfect illusory antidote to a play that rips illusions aside.

A final note... my book club recently got me into reading plays. Almost kicking and screaming, but not quite - I think I expected them to be more like poetry, which I find even more difficult (another friend is working on me in that regard as well). In each case, I've read a play that I've already seen as a movie, and the stage directions in particular are fun to contrast and compare. As are any potential changes I might notice between the two, which are usually surprisingly few.

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