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Brilliant acting fuels classic play about explosive relationship

Lauren Smith

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Courtesy of Blue Room Theatre

Not enough drama in life? Never fear, as Matt Hammons directs a Blue Room Theatre production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” that will have you in tears, from both laughter and heartbreak.

Set in the 1960s, Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” chronicles the heated, alcohol-fueled night of middle-aged couple George and Martha. After returning home from a party, Martha mentions that she has invited a young married couple over for a drink or two.

Thus enters Nick and Honey, a moderately pleasant couple who find themselves in over their heads when George and Martha erupt into a vicious game with the goal of verbally causing the other to snap.

Under Hammons directions, this three-act comedy-drama maneuvers through a maze of emotional highs and lows. The intimate production, containing only four actors and one set, relies wholly on its witty script and the comedic timing of the actors in order to work.

And work it did. In a feat often uncommon in local theater, all four actors delivered a seamless show worthy of a Broadway performance slot. Bruce Dillman (playing the conniving yet lovable George) stole the show with a flawless representation of his character and comedic timing better than anything that could expected from a small-company production.

Betty Burns (acting as the overbearing yet emotionally vulnerable Martha) delivered an equally impressive performance, dynamically starting out the show as a funny, braying housewife and closing out the show with a scene that left the audience in tears. The chemistry between Dillman and Burns crackled and sparked on stage, so much so that one might guess they have been working together for their entire careers.

Sean Green delivers a stellar performance as the dreamy and adorably clueless Nick, alongside Delisa Freistadt as the tittering and delusional Honey.

The mature nature of the play itself makes it unsuitable for some audiences. The violent and verbally abusive interactions can sometimes hit too close to home for some audience members, but that really serves as a testament to the believability of the actors.

Comedically, it’ll have the audience chuckling under its breath and laughing out loud. One may need to see the play multiple times in order to catch all of the quick quips and snarky interactions bandied about amongst the characters. Dramatically, the script and performance work together to tell the heartbreaking story of a middle-aged couple in strife.

The Blue Room Theatre’s production of Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” returns for one final week of shows April 2-4. Thursday is pay-what-you-can. Friday and Saturday are $15 advanced and $18 at the door.

Lauren Smith can be reached at [email protected] or @reginechassagne on Twitter.

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Brilliant acting fuels classic play about explosive relationship