Ruthi Engelke in front of Ferndale Repertory Theatre on Jan. 28. Engelke plays the character Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Photo by Abby LeForge.

Theater review: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Ferndale Repertory Theatre and director Jane Hill put on an uncomfortably wonderful show.
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The dark comedy “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” by Edward Albee opened this weekend at Fernadale Repertory Theatre. The play, with only a cast of four, managed to leave a big impression on the audience and ended with a well-deserved standing ovation.

Eureka resident David Cobb, 55, said he felt the cast really brought this story to life and made it believable.

“It was a psychic punch to the gut,” Cobb said.

The story takes place entirely in the home of George, a middle-aged history professor, and his wife, Martha. After a party, the two invite a younger couple, Nick and Honey, over for a nightcap and end up exposing them to an alcohol-fueled display of marital drama.

The three-act play, which ran about three hours, may be long for some, but the clever, provocative dialogue kept it interesting. Met by (often uncomfortable) laughter and shocked gasps from the audience, it was well-directed and captured perfectly the tension of a marriage riddled with resentment and spite.

All of the actors were a joy to watch. Honey, played by Holly Portman, was adorably meek with well-timed, humorous outbursts. Nick, played by Travis J. Morris, seemed dull at first. Despite that, he became more dynamic as the story progressed, showing his own dark side.

However, the standouts of this production were Daniel Baer as George and Ruthi Engelke as Martha.

Those who have seen the 1966 film adaptation starring Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor would know that the actors had some big shoes to fill. Baer and Engelke did not disappoint and delivered performances as potent as the liquor their characters imbibed.

A newcomer to the Ferndale Repertory Theatre, Engelke has been involved in theater since the age of four. She said to play the role of Martha, she had to dig deep within herself to find how she identified with the character.

“It’s like opening up a vein and letting it bleed,” Engleke said.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” will be at Ferndale Repertory Theatre until Feb. 4 and at the Arcata Playhouse Feb. 9 through Feb. 18.

 

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One Comment

  1. Leira Leira Thursday, February 1, 2018

    Nicely written review. Thank you.

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