The American theatre's most booze-happy, vicious married couple, George and Martha, of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, are celebrating their 50th anniversary on Broadway. Actor Tracy Letts shares his side of the story.
Who'd have thought the university president's daughter and that old bog in the history department would make it to the big five-oh? (Who'd have thought they'd make it through the night?) Anyone who's ever sat through those early a.m. "fun and games" of theirs would give them two weeks, if not minus two weeks.
Surprisingly, Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? really is a love story, though an odd one because just the opposite seems to be going on: a couple of academic relics behave badly in front of youthful versions of themselves (a handsome new addition to the biology department and his brandy-addled wife).
Come Oct. 13 these marital wars begin anew as Virginia Woolf returns to Broadway exactly 50 years to the date after the premiere of the original version. Directed by Clybourne Park's Pam MacKinnon, it stars a quartet of Steppenwolf players from Chicago: Tracy Letts and Amy Morton as George and Martha, and Madison Dirks and Carrie Coon as Nick and Honey.
All but Morton are making their Broadway bows — even Letts, who already has a Tony for writing his Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County, which showed Morton off to Tony-nominated advantage. Reports on this new Woolf from early engagements in Chicago and Washington, DC, indicate that the bookworm has turned and it's finally George's play. "Revelation," said The New York Times.
A red-dirt kicker from Durant, OK, Letts begs to differ with this praise. "Y'know, I read that stuff, and I frankly didn't understand it," he sighs, mystified. "When we sit down to work on a show at Steppenwolf, the approach is the same: you start on page one, try to figure out who these people are, what they want and how they get it — simple questions — and we fill in the blanks. There was never any discussion during rehearsal about 'It's normally done this way, but we're going to do it this way.' We never talked about it in those terms. We just talked about real people, so when it comes out in the wash that this is a very different George or a very different dynamic, I sorta go, 'No. Really? It doesn't feel like it to me when I'm up there.'"