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Schultz play challenges fear of reality

By Josette Keelor -- jkeelor@nvdaily.com

The Schultz Theatre's upcoming play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," is not scary, but it offered a frightening challenge for its cast, according to director Chris Whitney.

"This one was a little scary getting into it at first," Whitney said recently. "I was always fascinated by the show but also really intimidated by it."

"It's not your typical story, it's just sort of a slice of life play," Whitney said.

The play, written by Edward Albee, begins with married couple George and Martha, played by Alan Wiecking and Gina Currence, returning from a party and discussing how Martha has invited a younger couple she met at the party to visit. Throughout the night, George and Martha are progressively ruder to their guests, played by Britney Mongold and Tim Reger.

Fights ensue, meltdowns begin, and one might assume that the non-hospitable couple easily will drive away their put-upon guests. Only they don't.

The title draws immediate meaning from a line Martha overhears at the university party earlier in the evening. She makes the connection to the song, "Who's Afraid of the Big, Bad Wolf," from Walt Disney's "The Three Little Pigs," and thinks the joke appropriate to the seemingly highfalutin guest list.

But later in the play, the title takes on greater meaning.

"Virginia Woolf was an author; she was very hard to read," Whitney said. The title, he said, really could be asking audience members "Who's afraid of reality?"

"And maybe that's why George and Martha are constantly dodging reality and living in a fantasy world," Whitney said.

The characters, he said, were named as an intentional reference to President Washington and his wife Martha, who, for many, represent an ideal that other American couples strive to become in their own marriages.

The George and Martha in the play, however, are exactly the opposite. Until this play was first performed in 1962, Whitney said, Americans never had seen a couple portrayed as such a contrast to American stereotypes of perfection.

"There definitely is a story," Whitney said, "but I think this is a play that's more about creating the moments that happen throughout the night."

"This is sort of a very different play," he said. "I teach high school, so I usually do more family-friendly stuff."

"As an actor," he said, "these are the types of characters you want to play, and as a director the characters you want to work with. Very deep and layered."

All four cast members are regulars at Schultz. Wiecking, Currence and Mongold having performed together in last winter's "The Dew Point," and Reger coming off last spring's "The Odd Couple."

With a character-driven show like this, Whitney said, there's only so much he as the director can do.

"This play is not a play that you direct," he said. "It's a play that you sort of translate."

"You really don't have to do too much for it, if you have the right actors."

The Schultz Theatre will perform "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" at 9357 N. Congress St. in New Market Sept. 14 to 23. Performances are at 7 p.m. Friday and Saturday at 3 p.m. Sunday. Reserved tickets are $10 for adults and $8 for students and senior; at the door tickets are $12 for adults and $10 for students and seniors. For more information, call 740-9119 or visit www.schultztheatre.com.

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