“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Opens At Warehouse Theatre

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is a modern theatre classic written by Edward Albee. The play first opened on Broadway in 1962, fresh out of the Eisenhower Era.

Plot: George and Martha return home from a college faculty party in the middle of a night, when Martha informs George she has invited over guests — the new math professor and his wife. Once the couple arrives, George and Martha engage in a fierce game of insults, throwing the young couple Nick and Honey into the midst of their manipulative scheme.

Cultural Significance: Virginia Woolf is not a character in the play. Instead, the play was written after the conservative wave of the Eisenhower Era. Woolf represents the realization of illusions under which many traditional families were hiding. Albee’s play won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1963, but lost the Pulitzer Prize for Drama because of its profanity and sexual themes.

Review: Few plays of such high caliber are performed in local theatres in the Upstate. Chicago and Wicked have both dropped by on national tours, but Virginia Woolf is a major task for a local theatre. The success of the play is entirely dependent on the ability of the actors to grip the audience for three hours in an emotionally exhausting performance.

Mimi Wyche stars as Martha, a disappointed wife of a college history professor. Wyche has performed on Broadway and Off-Broadway, and her casting in the Warehouse’s production has stirred up the local theatre community with excitement. Avid theatre lovers will not be disappointed, as Wyche delivers a must-see performance that leaves the audience speechless at the close of the show.

Director Roy Fluhrer directed the show 30 years ago, but is more impressed with this performance due to his excellent cast. Fluhrer began talks with Wyche about this performance 10 years ago, and found Chip Egan as George nearly four yeas ago. Fluhrer praised his cast saying, “As wonderful as this play is, as fantastic as it is in its language and its characters, what really makes this worthwhile is that relationship not only of the cast as the cast, but as the cast as a bunch of  actors from Greenville.”

Fluhrer’s praises are well-deserved, as local actors Debra Capps and Brock Koonce also deliver spectacular performances. Fluhrer’s meticulous direction is also very evident, as well as the influence of Stanislavski on his work. While most directors would claim Stanislavski as an influence, Fluhrer’s persistence on his actors’ careful movements helps the audience engage with every action. No single movement is wasted in each actor’s deliberation to reach their character’s goals.

The set is beautifully designed, as designer Shannon Robert took advantage of the climactic plot — since the story takes place solely in George and Martha’s house, the scene was very elaborate and picturesque of a professor’s home and personal study. Books, CDs and papers were carefully placed in an untidy fashion on shelves and desks, helping add to the deteriorating relationship of George and Martha.

Costume design for the play was also a major strength of the show. Particularly for the male characters, the design helped show the generational divide between George and Nick, a key theme in Virginia Woolf. George appears unkempt wearing an old sweater, while Nick is dressed wearing a suit and tie. Throughout the first two acts, George is very uncomfortable with Nick’s promising future and the changes his generation could bring. For the female characters, Martha wears very alluring outfits according to her strong personality, while Honey is dressed in a plain dress hanging on her fragile body.

The character foils are not only made evident by the costume design, but by the strong performance of the cast as a unit. Capps’ reactions as Honey  in the opening act are the character’s strongest moments. The scene between George and Nick provides a key insight on the contrast between George’s failed career and Nick’s promising future. George inquires to know more about the coming changes in Nick’s generation, eventually manipulating Nick into spilling too much personal information.

Overall, the performance is a must-see for any fan of local theatre, and the ending scene of brokenness will leave audiences speechless.

Favorite Moment: After George and Martha have a violent outburst in the middle of Act One, George plays a trick on the other characters. The genuine surprise of the characters both frightened and humored the audience, placing them as victims of George’s game as well.

Themes: George and Martha once had a happy relationship until Martha realized George would never meet her expectations. The play continually reveals the breaking down of illusions and disguises, as both couples are hiding secrets. “Truth and illusion. Who knows the difference?” Martha asks in the final act. The illusions each couple live with serve as a comfort for the uncomfortable realities they attempt to deny. Unlike the family models of the Eisenhower Era, Virginia Woolf exposes the destructive realities behind the surface. As the play develops, it becomes clear that truth serves as the play’s antagonist, eventually ruining each character.

A second theme developed in the play is the uncomfortable changes of the younger generation. George is immediately skeptical of Nick, the young biology professor at New Carthage University. Because George is preoccupied with history, he feels threatened by the wave of the future and lack of respect Nick shows towards the older generation.

Content Advisory: Albee’s play contains strong profanity and sexual dialogue. The content prevented the play from winning a Pulitzer Prize in 1963.

Tickets: $25 adults; $15 students
Box Office: 864-235-6948
Warehouse Theatre

The Devastating Isolation of the Quest for Independence

I listen to Top 40 radio every so often, and I can assure you it’s not for entertainment. While void of creativity, the music speaks into culture and influences lifestyle trends. And because listening to the music requires little brainpower to process the messages and beats, it is the quickest avenue for social change – good or bad.

Take for instance the popularity of the Jerk Movement. A duo by the name of The New Boyz leads this LA-based movement supposedly named for a simplistic dance move that somehow excites people to the point of procreation. If you listen carefully to the music, however, it’s easy to assume that the jerk is not the dance move, but rather the artists.

In the group’s current hit, “Tie Me Down,” these two 17-year old boys rap about how their instant success allows them to sleep with virtually any girl. In fact, they make it clear to the ladies that a commitment is far out of the question, at least for the time being. Despite the efforts of a few girls to make sacrifices to the New Boyz to show their dedication to a relationship, this line is blunt: “You ain’t nothin’ but a hoe.”

Here’s an excerpt from the second verse, and you can read the full lyrics here.

But you cant tie me down like a pair of shoe strings,
Yea you cute. so what?,
But lets get it through your head,
Yea we make love, sex, weed all in the bed,
Its the best thing I love about you,
But things dont change,
When im not faithful,
You be feelin all pain,
Now you stuck like a stain and i cant believe that,
Baby girl want hundreds i aint tryna do that,
Got so many girls and i aint lettin go,
Cause my life is great,
And you aint nothing but a hoe,
Yea you come to my shows and your very supportive,
Just show me a camera and my show recorded,
it was nice,
But Im Suprised That your still standing here,
Ay yea you know im a man,
And i have no feelings,
Im a start it from the top,
Girl this aint no lovin,
Im a new boy girl

Admittedly, the song is very catchy. I probably heard it several times before I actually listened to the lyrics. Before I break down an adequate response to this broken view of manhood, I’ll address the problem presented from the opposite gender as well: Miley Cyrus.

The daughter of Billy Ray Cyrus and the former Disney star who once tried to market a Christian image, Miley is stirring up quite the controversy with her latest single. If you haven’t seen the provocative video for “Can’t Be Tamed,” it’s nowhere near as depressing as the lyrics. The song is basically another shallow composition by a 17-year old, but proudly displays this popular trend for independence and a strong dose of commitmentphobia.

Full lyrics here
I wanna fly, I wanna drive, I wanna go
I wanna be a part of something I don’t know
And if you try to hold me back I might explode
Baby by now you should know

(Chorus)
I can’t be tamed, I can’t be tamed, I can’t be blamed
I can’t can’t, I can’t can’t be tamed
I can’t be changed
I can’t be tamed,
I can’t be be, I can’t be tamed

The question I ask to those who are aghast at Miley Cyrus and The New Boyz is this: Why are you surprised? These 17-year old teenagers have grown up in an era where commitment has been scorned. Independence, as they so call it, is no longer a form of liberation but rather the outcome of selfish, lazy teens communicating solely through social networking. They propagate the sins of their parents to create popular trends that merely reflect the devastating isolation that is not just anti-romantic, but anti-human. Unnatural.

God created us to have emotion, feelings, and love. The New Boyz can boast all they want that they “have no feelings,” but that doesn’t make one a man. Besides serving as a self-declaration that they are no different than dogs in heat, the statement ultimately conveys they are sinners dead in their transgressions. Utterly depraved.

The dilemma also proves why Father’s Day this weekend will not serve as a celebration for many, but a reminder for my generation that the men who seeded their mothers weren’t brave enough to father them. For many, it only further isolates them from wanting to feel emotion or to desire commitment.

As a glorious reminder, I hope to encourage fellow believers that this Father’s Day is also a celebration that because of Christ we were adopted into the family of God. The fact that our culture is so isolated should not only break our hearts, it should compel us to be a light in the darkness.

I write this not to paint Miley Cyrus and the New Boyz as enemies; rather, we should pursue their generation and their parents with the Gospel…not just to stand on street corners shouting for repentance, but to pursue loving relationships with the unloved, and care for them far beyond the ways they only care for themselves.

Just like Jesus cared for us.