Domestic disturbance

Screening of National Theatre's 'Virginia Woolf' set to pair with lecture and discussion


'George, who is out somewhere there in the dark. Who is good to me. Whom I revile. Who can keep learning the games we play as quickly as I can change them. Who can make me happy and I do not wish to be happy. Yes, I do wish to be happy. George and Martha -- sad, sad, sad."

Familiar? For anyone acquainted with Edward Albee's milestone play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?," it's a window cracked ever so slightly into the flawed relationship of one of the theater's most mercurial couples.

The Taos Center for the Arts, in concert with the Harold Pinter Theatre in London, will present an encore performance of "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Saturday (March 3) at 11 a.m. The play will be screened as part of the National Theatre in HD series at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Tickets are $18, $15 for Taos Center for the Arts members, and $10 for youth 17 and younger. Parental guidance is suggested due to strong language and mature themes.

The National Theatre of London set the stage for its latest production of Albee's play in this way: "In the early hours of the morning on the campus of an American college, Martha, much to her husband George's displeasure, has invited the new professor and his wife to their home for some after-party drinks. As the alcohol flows and dawn approaches, the young couple are drawn into George and Martha's toxic games until the evening reaches its climax in a moment of devastating truth-telling."

Produced by Sonia Friedman Productions and directed by James Mcdonalds, the play stars Imelda Staunton ("Gypsy," "Vera Drake," the "Harry Potter" films) as Martha; Conleth Hill ("Game of Thrones," "The Producers") as George; Luke Treadaway ("The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time," "Fortitude," "The Hollow Crown") as Nick; and Imogen Poots ("A Long Way Down," "Jane Eyre") as Honey.

Midway through its season of collaboration with the National Theatre, Susan Nuss of Taos Center for the Arts noted the season has included the plays "Twelfth Night," "Angels in America," and "Rosenkrantz and Guildenstern are Dead."

"This is a rich and complex entry," she said of "Virginia Woolf."

Not a livestream, Nuss noted that the production, captured by HD cameras on stage, places the audience more "in the middle of the action." She continued, "The theater also provides bonus discussions with the director and the actors prior to the show and during intermission, so it's a real in-depth experience."

Local café, KOKO, will be providing a la carte lunch options during the intermission, but attendees are also free to bring their own lunch.

Perhaps what Nuss is most enthused about is the lecture and discussion on the play that is being hosted by Society of the Muse of the Southwest, Taos' literary resource center. The event will take place today (March 1), 5 p.m., at SOMOS, 108 Civic Plaza Drive.

Featuring Charlotte Keefe, the evening will afford an overview of the play, review the main dramatic elements and background, and facilitate a dialogue. The event is free and open to the public although donations are welcome. Light refreshments will be served. Tickets for the TCA screening will also be available for purchase.

Nuss said, "We've been encouraging such discussions because it's so much better to see something when you've been educated as to what things to look for, how the playwright writes. It fosters conversation not just before the presentation, but afterwards."

SOMOS Director Jan Smith agreed. "SOMOS, in collaboration with Taos Center for the Arts, is pleased to announce lecture and discussion sessions prior to selected 2017-18 scheduled National Theatre of London in HD screenings. We've been very excited to partner with the TCA and to provide that literary background to which TCA is streaming."

The evening's speaker will be Charlotte Keefe. "I will talk about Edward Albee, the playwright," Keefe said, "and how his perception of society in the 1950s influenced the play, which was produced in 1962, its pre-production history on Broadway, its synopsis, and the four characters: the older couple, George and Martha, and the younger couple, Nick and Honey." Keefe has a bachelor's degree in theater arts, a master's in deaf education, and a doctorate in special education. She is co-founder of three community theaters, including Taos Onstage, of which she president.

"As to themes, there are so many sub-themes or statements, including the breakdown of modern society, the fantasies and inventions we create to ease the pains of life, the destructiveness of competition and power," she adds. "Whether intended or not, there is a feminist statement. When Albee wrote this, women often gained 'power' through the men in their lives. For example, daughters might have privilege because of who their father is, or wives have power through their husband's position. The play also brings out power through sexuality."

She said Albee was also a political writer who wanted his plays "to be useful. It is significant that he wrote the play in the early 1960s when there was a 'cold war' going on and terror of communism loomed over us."

Keefe also noted, "the play is widely misunderstood. The Mike Nichols' 1966 film, starring Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, treated it more as a liquor-fueled marital slugfest. While Albee does use marriage as the vehicle, the play makes us think about the state of society as a whole. It is a play that can fuel interesting discussions after it is over."

"The play," Keefe said, "was a sensation in its own time because of the powerful themes that it touched on and the inherent tension created between the actors and the audience. The audience gets to experience the freedom that comes with the exposure of illusions. It is considered to be a classic of modern drama."

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" won the Drama Critics circle award, the Tony Award for best play, the Foreign Press Association award, among many other prestigious awards. It was recommended for the Pulitzer Prize in 1963, but the board rejected the recommendation and no award was given that year.

Tickets to the screening may be purchased in advance at the Taos Center for the Arts office at 133 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. For questions, call (575) 758-2052. For more information about today's lecture and discussion, call SOMOS at (575) 758-0081.