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‘Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf’ Is Back

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” is back.  We’ll talk with the Broadway director about the most infamous couple on stage.

Tracy Letts, Carrie Coon, Amy Morton and Madison Dirks in the new production of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

Tracy Letts, Carrie Coon, Amy Morton and Madison Dirks in the new production of Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (Photos by Michael Brosilow)

Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” shocked and scorched theater audiences when it opened in 1962.  A bitter, drunken, brutal marriage laid out mercilessly for all to see.  Love and hate – more hate – and flying, razor-edged lines.  Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton took it to the big screen and the whole country gasped.

Now it’s back on Broadway, and critics are still gasping.  At how complicated and dangerous love can be.

This hour, On Point:  we talk marriage and drama with Pam McKinnon, director of the Broadway revival of  “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.”

-Tom Ashbrook


Charles Isherwood, drama critic for the New York Times. You can find his review here.

Pam MacKinnon, Tony- and Lortel-nominated theater director. Her latest Broadway revival is: Edward Albee’s “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

William Doherty, professor and director of the Marriage and Family Therapy Program in the Department of Family Social Science, College of Education and Human Development, at the University of Minnesota.

From Tom’s Reading List

New York ObserverWho’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Edward Albee’s seminal and searing portrait of a viciously feuding, functionally alcoholic, codependently miserable and mildly delusional married couple, opened Saturday night at the Booth Theatre, 50 years to the day after its Broadway debut. It was last seen in New York only seven years ago, starring Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner, but the new production, which originated at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is a welcome return.”

Daily News “Originally a showcase for Arthur Hill and Uta Hagen and in 2005 for Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner, the drama is back on Broadway in a production from Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company.”

USA Today “Though Tracy Letts began his career as an actor, he became a Broadway star for his work offstage, as the playwright who in 2008 collected both a Tony Award and a Pulitzer Prize for August: Osage County, a darkly hilarious, deeply unsettling study of an embattled Oklahoma family.”


Here’s a video looking at the new play.

Here’s the 1966 trailer of the film with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton.

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  • 228929292AABBB

    Can the guests please explain the title of the play?  Maybe I’m just dumb but I never totally understood the connection with Virginia Woolf.  Thank you.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000605091422 Maureen Roy

      “I was in there having a beer one night, and I saw “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” scrawled in soap, I suppose, on this mirror. When I started to write the play it cropped up in my mind again. And of course, who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf means who’s afraid of the big bad wolf . . . who’s afraid of living life without false illusions. And it did strike me as being a rather typical, university intellectual joke.— Edward Albee[4]“http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who’s_Afraid_of_Virginia_Woolf%3F

  • http://www.facebook.com/daniel.wetmore.7 Daniel Wetmore

    I lived with William Stringfellow, the lawyer and theologian, for 3 years in the 1980′s. Stringfellow’s longtime companion, who died shortly before I met and came to live with Stringfellow, was the poet Anthony Towne. Stringfellow asserted a few times that Anthony was close friends with Edward Albee, and that the root of the play WAVW? was actually a dinner party of two gay couples at which Towne was present. As the keeper of the Towne archive I have always wanted to contact Albee about this. Any ideas on how to contact him, and what about the timeliness of the topic with the rise of marriage equality?

    Dan Wetmore, Montpelier VT

    • currentVWproducer

       Check Wikipedia on WHOS…..WOOLF. You’ll find actual info on who the characters George and Martha were likely based on.

    • currentVWproducer

        In another interview, Albee acknowledged that he based the characters
      of Martha and George on his good friends, New York socialites Willard Maas and Marie Menken. They share the names of President George Washington and his wife Martha Washington, America’s first First Couple. Maas was a professor of literature at Wagner College
      (one similarity between the character George and Willard) and his wife
      Marie was an experimental filmmaker and painter. Maas and Menken were
      known for their infamous salons, where drinking would “commence at 4pm
      on Friday and end in the wee hours of night on Monday” (according to Gerard Malanga, Warhol associate and friend to Maas). The primary conflict between George and Martha in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? derived from Maas and Menken’s tempestuous and volatile relationship.

    • Regular_Listener

       Hi.  I’m not an expert, but I am a big fan of the play.  You might want to track down some Albee interviews.  He has been asked this question (many times, I’m sure).  I do recall seeing an interview with him in which he denied that George and Martha are meant to be a masked version of a gay couple, and said that if he wanted to write about a gay couple, then he would have. 

  • Dick Johnson

    George, historian and humanist, is on the slide while Nick, a scientist, is on the rise, Albee’s assessment of the arts and sciences, the academy, at mid-century. But as George gathers his strength and becomes the priest of the exorcism ritual that will reveal Nick and Honey as scandalously hypocritical (George and Martha cannot have children, Nick and Honey abort the child they could have had). A great American drama about potency and impotency, humanism and science, brilliantly conceived and poetically executed.

  • Dick Johnson

    Title: Virginia Woolf is the Big, Bad, Wolf who can huff and puff and blow your house down.  Woolf probed the inner psyches of her characters, as this play does, as well. The Big Bad Wolf in Disney was also the Depression, and if you’re not careful and build houses out of straw and sticks, you’ll get blown down.  Only the capitalist pig who builds of brick will survive the ravages of the Deprerssiion

  • 5294

    I am currently also directing the show – in Lexington KY.  I think that we need to mention Nick and Honey also.  I think Nick’s “I think I understand this” repeated three times, suggests he is seeing his own future and their own phantom baby.  “Poof!”

    Tony Haigh for Banta Productions at Actors Guild of Lexington

  • GarretWoodward

    I’m a 27-year-old writer and I finally saw the film this year. Was completely blown away. It made me rethink what it means to have dialogue move a piece of material. An incredible production, with some of the finest characters ever created…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1584524640 Walter White

    From Nashville-I hope to never see Elizabeth & Richard’s performances again. It was too powerful. They are the unltimate monsters. It showed what two ‘ordinary’ people can inflict on each other. No horror show can touch it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1584524640 Walter White

    still from Nashville & an old english (only 66) teacher with an interest in WW2 where at least propaganda enabled us to feel the enemy was not human.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001048219334 Vic Volpe

    Saw Liz and Richard in the ’60′s.  Didn’t get married for another ten years!

  • Jackie

    Taylor and Burton stunned us with their performances in this incredible play.   The play is ageless

  • Mike_Card

    Sandy Dennis stole the show.

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