A small, liquor-fueled evening party, an extension of a larger university faculty gathering, is one of the better known social events in American culture.
Firmly set in 1962, the conflicts continue to resonate with couples today. The time has passed in which affluent wives stayed home and gentlemen stood when ladies entered a room. Yet people remain involved in the power struggles and techniques of manipulation that evolve in marital relationships.
Edward Albee's "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" being presented by the Minot Area Theatrical Society today through Sunday, explores the mechanics of two marriages.
Submitted Photo - - Terry J. Aman as George, left, and Ceecy Nucker as Martha, seated, greet Jon Placak and Nicolette Nelson as their guests Nick and Honey in the Minot Area Theatrical Society production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Submitted Photo - - Jon Placak as Nick, left, cautions Nicolette Nelson as his wife, Honey, to ease up on her drinking in the MATS production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Submitted Photo - - Ceecy Nucker as Martha, right, nags Terry J. Aman as her husband, George, in the MATS production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Martha, played by Ceecy Nucker, is the president's daughter at a small private university in New England. Twenty-three years earlier she married George, portrayed by Terry J. Aman, an associate professor of history. They have evolved a tempestuous relationship, held together in an apparently precarious balance.
As the play opens, Martha has invited Nick, a new young teacher, played by Jon Placak, and his wife home after a "get-acquainted" social hour.
The younger wife, in Albee's examination of the culture of the time, not given a proper name, is called Honey through all three acts. She is ably played by Nicolette Nelson, a MATS regular who seems too young to understand an era in which young instructors' wives "stayed home and bought things."
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
The MATS production of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" is presented in the Vegas Motel in a show-only production at 7 p.m. today and as a dinner theater Friday and Saturday featuring pasta primavera and chicken cordon bleu, respectively. A Sunday luncheon matinee featuring a french dip opens at 1 p.m.
Tickets are $8 for adults and $5 for seniors today, $20 Friday and Saturday and $15 Sunday. Ticket prices for dinner productions include the meal. Reservations are required for dinner productions, and can be made by calling the MATS at 509-5535.
Cast members agreed the older couple spent considerable time explaining cultural workings of 1962 to the younger ones. Albee spends three acts laying bare the attempts of women to bring balance to the power to the relationships. The cultural literacy evident in the lives of university faculty also proved somewhat daunting.
"George is so intelligent that he has become merely an observer, who analyzes people around him," Aman said. "He has developed defense mechanisms against Martha, is sometimes obnoxious and patronizing. They are a formidable pair."
Martha, a woman previously portrayed by such actresses as Elizabeth Taylor and Mercedes Ruehl, is an early version of a "cougar," an older woman who preys on younger men.
Her husband, following in theatrical footsteps of actor Richard Burton and others, begins the play as a brilliant but detached observer to his wife's infidelities.
Placak tackles a tough role for his first Minot theatrical foray.
"Nick is essentially an honorable man, but he is also ambitious," Placak said of his character, "He sees himself on the fast track to success in this small university."
Nick's wife, bewildered by the direction the party takes, turns to brandy to weather the evening.
"Honey is a preacher's daughter, uncomfortable with swearing," Nelson said. "I think Albee intended Honey to be comic relief."
A fifth, phantom character whose fate hangs in the balance over the course of the play is Martha and George's son.
"(Aman) and I have wanted to produce this play for years," Nucker said. "It is one of the most intense plays in English. Now we feel we have the perfect cast."
Another invaluable person in the production is Christine Morse, billed as assistant director in the cast-directed play.
Morse, who has acted and directed for MATS since 2007, is the cast's eye.
"She tells us how our actions look from the audience side, which we cannot do ourselves," Nucker said.
The play's title is another strange marriage, melding elements of the Disney song, "Who's Afraid of the Big Bad Wolf," with the name of famed English writer Virginia Woolf.
"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" which premiered on Broadway in 1962, won Tony and New York Drama Critic awards that year. After the 1966 Taylor-Burton screen version, George Segal and Sandy Dennis starred in a later film production.
Mature themes and language -- the play is recommended for mature audiences only -- caused a stir when the play opened. In fact, Albee's play, selected for a Pulitzer prize, was denied that plum at the time because of language, even though some of it may seem almost quaint today.