Yes, alas and alack, I heard on the news that Edward Albee has died which surprised me because I assumed he had gone some time ago. I once had the pleasure - at least, I think it was a pleasure - of acting in his most famous play Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf. I remember reading the script because I knew it was coming up at one of my 'AmDram' groups but I really had my eye on another production elsewhere. In any case, having read the script I remember closing the book with relief and thanking God that I would never have to meet those four ghastly people ever again! Needless to say, I failed to get the part I wanted in the other production - just another example of an idiot director who failed to spot my outstanding talent - I know, shockin', shockin'! So, with less than bubbling enthusiasm I went for the role of George in Edward Albee's grim tale almost sort of hoping I wouldn't get it - but I did!
The story is simple. George is a middle-aged professor at an old East Coast college married to Martha who is the daughter of the college president. It becomes very clear very quickly that these two are locked in a state of continual marital warfare. It is evening and they arrive home accompanied by a young couple, Nick, a biology professor and his even younger wife, Honey. They have all been drinking and that continues non-stop throughout the evening. Part of the brilliance of the play is that it complies with the three unities of theatre, that is, there is only one plot line, one location (the living room) and theatre time is the same as real time. To add power to our particular production, the director chose to play it in traverse, that is, the audience were seated either side of the acting area so that we, the players, became like insects scuttling round at the bottom of a petri dish. (This is why the film version with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor, ideally cast as George and Martha, never worked because moving the cameras in and out and roundabout destroyed the concentrated tension.)
The characters are all, in one way or another, appalling people who in their increasingly drunken state begin to tear psychological strips off each other. The tension builds and builds until, in the final few moments, George and Martha sit together, wounded and exhausted, on a settee and he quietly and gently sings to her, "Who's afraid of Virginia Woolf", a joke on the famous Disney song, and after a small pause, she replies "I am, George ... I am" and the play ends.
It's tough stuff but a very great play.