1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on November 18, 2003
Brilliantly vitriolic, witty, and sassy, this is one of the most engrossing and readable dramas you are likely to come across. At its most basic level, this play is so simple - just four characters, one room, and all the action taking place in the space of a few hours. But in terms of substance this is a powerfully rich and complex work of genius. The writing cuts like a sharp knife, the characters are exquisitely developed and original, and their chemistry is charged with an undeniable energy.
The characters are at odds with each other throughout the play, and yet it is difficult to takes sides with only one of them. They are all both likeable and dislikeable at the same time. George is a mean-spirited passive-aggressive with a huge chip on his shoulder, but it's impossible not to root for him as he joyfully attacks his wife, Martha, for her fondness of the bottle and various other sins. Nick's demeanor is just a tad holier-than-thou, but it is easily forgivable given the outrageous treatment he is forced to endure throughout the evening. Honey, his wife, is a ditz and a lush, but loveable in the same way as an Irish Setter. Any one of the four could easily carry the show, and together they create a powerful tension that keeps the play moving at a brisk pace.
It is easy to see why Albee's writing has earned him a Pulitzer Prize. What is surprising is that is was another, lesser-known play and not this one that he won it for.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on September 6, 2003
This play is not for the faint of heart or for those who think it's about Virgina Woolf. I won't go into a summary of the play as many reviewers have already done. However, I will say this is definitely one of the best plays I have ever read (I read it cover to cover in under 2 hours). George and Martha remind me very much of my own parents with the exception of the drinking and the fact I'm not imaginary. It was a bit hurtful to read this play and find such a comparison to the people I love but it was refreshing. Below all the humilations and torture George and Martha place on each other through there 'games' they love each other and ultimately appear to have a healthier and happier marriage than the seemingly innocent Nick and Honey. This play is not a happy one so if your looking for a full of laughs play with happy go lucky ending look elsewhere. Who's Afriad of Virginia Woolf falls along the lines of O'Neil's Long Day's Journey Into Night or Miller's Death of a Salesman and All My Sons. Have tissues handy when you read it, see it performed live if you can, or watch the Taylor & Burton film. But above all see it LIVE!
on February 19, 2003
Considered by some to be Albee's masterpiece, Virginia Woolf presents all of the playwright's main themes in this tightly compressed play. In a mere three acts, Albee breeches social as well as physical masochism at its most malevolent while displaying its truth-revealing effects while exposing its subconscious motivations. As for other Albee-eque motifs, there is his presentation of truth verses reality, linguistics aerobics, and, as par, a heavy dose of black humor. Albee remains faithful as a master of literature in that he never lapses into didacticism even when his characters voice personal soliloquies. As an aside, the play does differ from the famous film in that the former takes place within the confides of George and Martha's household, thus keeping their guests, Nick and Honey, as metaphorical prisoners throughout the night. Perhaps the most enjoyable aspect of the play, upon a close reading, is Albee's almost virtuoso execution of symbolism, especially Christian (comparable to Henry James). Highly recommended.
on June 20, 2002
Wow. I never thought I could like a play so much. I had to read this for a class in college, so I admit that I didn't know what I was in for. I would've never thought that I would enjoy reading a play. This is a work of art with every line having meaning and significance.
A quick summary of the story without giving too much away: This is the story about an elderly couple who seem to hate each other with a passion. They're rude, loud, offensive, and insulting. When they invite a younger couple to their house, things quickly start to get out of control, while the elderly couple use their guests as sheilds and pawns in their brutal arguements and such. The story ends with a shocking resolution that will catch you off guard.
The dialogue in this play is so beautifully written. It reads like the way people actually talk. That is why I enjoyed it so much. It also enriched the characters that much more. Edward Albee did a magnificent job of weaving a tale that seems so realistic it's as if we are there at that house on that very night. There are no minor characters; everyone is important in a very significant way. It is refreshing to be able to get to know each character and the hopes, dreams, ambitions, and the conflicts that lie within.
I really enjoyed reading this wonderfully structured play. Much so that I have already read it at least seven times. It is a very easy read. And since it is mostly dialogue, it really doesn't take long to read. You could easily finish it in a day or two if you really put your heart to it. Even if you don't enjoy reading novels, maybe this is the solution. There is no lengthy descriptions of what color the characters' eyes are or what they're wearing. Just good old dialogue that will have you hooked from the very beginning. "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is an outstanding play that will forever remain a true classic in American Literature.
on May 13, 2001
Edward Albee truly explores and humiliates the human fallacy of communication and insecurity in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? with the use of repetition and a critical and satirical tone. In the play, Albee creates a tension between the two main characters of George and Martha. Throughout the play, Martha repeatedly sings "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Although this song correlates to the title of the play, it also contains a deeper and more stylistic purpose to it. It basically means "Who's Afraid of life without false illusions?" according to Albee. When Martha sings George this very song, she is really asking him if he can continue life without lying to himself, but rather be honest with himself and live with the truth. This repetition of questioning with the song creates the feeling of insecurity within the characters. It arrives to the question if they can really handle the situation. In another example of repetition, Albee repeatedly has the characters of George and Martha suspiciously talk of and mention about their son. The repetition of this illusion by these characters creates the fantasy, which they live by, and how they carry on with this fantasy to fulfill their happiness. This correlates to the problem of insecurity Albee wishes to create through the use of the characters. Not only does Albee use this repetition to carry out his philosophical views on human existence, but he also validates the communicable issues with the satirical and critical tone throughout the play. The satirical tones of the sick games the couples fancy during the play spark a disturbing appearance toward the characters and their disgusting communication. Albee truly makes a disturbing communication problem when Martha plays "Humiliate the Host". She picks and edges at George's weakest aspects and embarrassments. This satirical tone demeans the couple's communication as Martha humiliates her husband in front of the guests. These disturbing game shows the true disgust of the American society as Albee demonstrates. Not only does his writing open a new door for us to look in to, but it also helps to pinpoint our nation's problems. The use of the character's insecurities not only relate to Albee's purpose of demonstrating a couple's in ability to cope and deal with life, but it also deals with society's problems. The stylistic strategies of Albee aid in our discovery of his purpose in the play but also in society.
on May 6, 2001
In his most famous play, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Edward Albee uses a seemingly non-violent and peaceful setting, coupled with sarcastic and very violent dialogue, along with a game motif to give the reader a sense of what true love is. The play opens with an older couple, George and Martha, who have just returned from a party at the college at which George works. The two invite a newly hired professor, Nick, and his young wife, Honey, to some over afterwards. Even before Nick and Honey enter, George and Martha are arguing and bickering over what seems like nothing, who should go and get the door. Nick and Honey timidly enter into the whirlwind of cut-downs and the constant apologies. They enter into a game, a number of games in fact, that leads to their confessions of true love for one another. George uses sarcasm and a friendly tone to cause Nick to open up to him and befriend him. George uses this newly found companionship to coerce Nick into sleeping with Martha, which just furthers her intuition that George is the only man that makes her truely happy. Albee, throughout all of these transgressions, shows a complete and total understanding of the human psyche. The characters constant bickering and their reactions to one anothers insults, holds true to mankind. The not always pleasant dialogue, and sexually explicit happenings allow the average reader to feel connected to this story. It reads like a soap opera, with innumerable plot twists and incessant back-stabbing. And, as most of us know, the vast majority of soap operas end in a confession or discovery of love. Through his use of many different situations, plot twists, and dialogue, Albee allows his characters George and Martha to realize how much they love one another.
on May 6, 2001
The play opens with a married couple, george and martha, who have just returned from a party at her fathers house, who happens to be the head of the college at which george is a professor. The two have invited the recently hired nick, and his wife honey, to join them at their house after the party. George and Martha have what i can only describe as a love-hate relationship. They constantly bicker and argue, but love each other all the more for it. Nick and Honey, caught in the middle of this game, unwittingly play a major role in it. The "game" is a major motif in the book. All of the characters have a personality varying between playfulness and anger, but they always seem to know that it is a game. George is developed more thoroughly than any of the other characters. His cynical attitude and sarcastic humor bring him always into the middle of the conflict. George controls the vast majority of the final act and is succesful in bringing the timid Nick out of his shell. George uses his ability to control people, to force Nick to sleep with Martha, which only furthers their "game". The brute language and sexually explicit scenes allow this book to keep the reader interested and connected with the characters. Though some of the book does seem harsh, it is all within context of the situations described. i absoluetly loved this play. I read it cover to cover in one night and was thoroughly inpresseed with Albee's understanding of the human psyche.
on September 5, 2000
Brilliant.Simply smashing so. This well written play takes place in three acts.A drama really,but with riotous hints of wry black comedy(Honey[hapily]:Oh!Violence!Violence!)bubbling behind every spoken word. A bickering twosome(George and Martha)invite guests over to their house,at the conclusion of a faculty party hosted by Martha's father(the college president).The guests are Nick and Honey,an equally mis-matched pair,married for all the wrong reasons,but who retreat to the confort of denial whenever things get too real. As dawn approaches,they all become drunker and drunker,and angrier and angerier.Every discourse punctuated by an explosive shout.Think along the lines of Lester and Carolyn from "American Beauty",if they got stuck in the same room as their schizo neighbors: George disgustedly attacks Nick,who works in the biology dept.("gonna screw with our chromoZONES,and make us all look the same"),in between Martha's blatant attempts at seducing him.All the while,Honey stands back,blurting out random nonsense.All in all,it's an emotionally exhausting experience. Fun at first,but quickly snowballing downward with the speed of an avalanche into the private hell kept hidden under George and Martha's cheery,well behaved exteriors-their guests becoming unwitting pawns in a ruthless war. Recommended.
on July 1, 2000
A Streetcar Named Desire, Death of a Salesmen, Angels in America, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, Long Day's Journey into the Night. These are the plays that share the ground with Edward Albee's play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. These plays have reached the pinacle of excellence.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf centers around an all night drink-fest between two married couples: George and Martha, who have been married for sometime, and Nick and Honey, a relatively new couple. The first act sets all this up, but the way Albee sets this up is the stuff of high drama. The quips his characters throw back and forth prepares the reader for the action that will follow. And we want it to. The action is the verbal brawl that the four principals have. The second act, entitled 'Walpurgisnacht', is one of the most exhausting pieces of fiction. The reader feels drained by the end of the second act. However, it's the third act (correctly entitled 'The Exoricism'-which was Albee's original title) that provides the catharsis.
Edward Albee has written a brilliant, landmark play. The Pulitzers made the biggest mistake when overlooking it for the prize. Albee won for three other plays (Three Tall Women, Seascape, and Delicate Balance), none of which contain the power that is "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf".
on May 15, 2000
This play takes place in the living room of George and Martha a(middle-aged couple)in a house on the campus of a small New England college. The play begins with George and Martha coming home from a falculty party drunk. They invite Nick and Honey over and the marriages begin to fall apart with all the arguing and confusion. Edward Albee gives a clear cut, honest picture of reality of marriage and the fears that go hand in hand with love and intimacy.Albee transforms social problems for which no solution is offered into sexual and family strife,problems for which he has a readily available solution.Albee takes questions of power,work, failure and success and privates them giving them status and value exclusively as family issues.Albee's style is beyond clever-often disturbingly immoral.The play is full of human emotions-distress,humiiiation, love and hate.The play emphasizes the men's social function at the play's end.The women's social function is to engage in reproduction and/or non- productive work.Both Honey and Martha had distorted these terms,by engaging in non-productive reproduction-that is not having children or by having a false child. The women are supposed to help husbands be successes and to remain tempting and non threatening subordinate partners in marriage.albee's women conform the stereotypical notions of women's place:that women take care of home and children while the men take care of the rest of the world. the women are seen as a sexobject, wife, cook, volunteer, semi-professional,hostess.The women are verbally abusive to the men precisely because the men do not suceed in the same stereo typical terms as do e women.The women fail to conform the sex role stereotypes only in their refusal to besilent about the already on-going failures of their men. However at the end of Who's Afraid of Virginia Wolf the humiliated,weak, unsuccesful man is shown to be stronger than the brutal, emasculating woman.The family problems are solved, not by investigating their ultimate source,which lies outside the home,but by regulating family relations in a highly normaive manner. George gains control over Martha by ridding the central family of all intruders and rivals to his power.In the end of the play the male child is killed because he is too tempting to his mother and imaginatively tempting in Virginia Woolf and sexually tempting in the American Dream.In conclusion George replaces the Daddy above him, subordinates the wife-child,and succesfully fights a reguard action against his own replacement by the son. This reversal is constructed by Albee's taking questions of power,work,failure or successand privatizing them, making social issues appear exclusively as family issuesand solving them as if they were family issues. Because of this the woman functions as a scapegoat. I thought that this play was great. This play captures the reader's attention and keeps it occupied guessing what will happen next until the end of the play.I would advise every one with a good sense of humor to read this play if it is possible.