- Al Michaels
I just read the uber famous play by Edward Albee, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,and it's one of those plays that stays with you. For me, it was partly because the whole play I was thinking "what the heck is this play about?!" or "what is going on?!". But, it's also due to the fact that the play is incredible and it's not easily forgettable.
There are a lot of plays I wish I had written. This play is definitely on the list. As a young writer, you hear a lot of "that wouldn't happen" or "this doesn't make sense", etc. I'm not arguing these aren't valid points- because they are- but one day I want to write a play where I get to make all the rules and I get to say what would and wouldn't happen and, when people read it, they say "okay, yeah I believe that."
The given circumstances in this play are kind of ridiculous. The play begins at, like, 2 in the morning where the characters have already been drinking at another party. George and Martha, the first couple, invite over the second couple, Nick and Honey, for there own little after party. They basically drink all night long which means that by the end of the play they are probably three levels past drunk. But, you also believe that they are the most honest they've ever been. You don't for a second think they're gonna wake up in the morning and not remember what happen or just chalk it up to another drunken night. These events have lasting consequences on their lives.
The characters are outlandish but strangely very human. At first, I was thinking that no one talks this way and no one is this cruel, but then the whole time I could picture people I know who are these characters. They may not act like these characters, but they could. And that's the point. Albee was able to write real people who do things and say things that most people would stop themselves from doing and saying. But, they are not too far from reality.
Albee also uses dialogue to walk all over you. It is so weird but it flows so well and the whole time I was just in awe of his ability to take out-of-this-world circumstances, characters, and dialogue and make a beautiful play from it.
I read up a little about the play after I finished because I wanted to try to understand everything. Once you finish the play, in my experience, you feel like you have a better understanding of the whole thing than you did at the beginning. (That's kind of a "duh" statement, but true.) The play wraps everything up so nicely and drops a bomb that destroys everything all at the same time. It's awesome. But, reading about the play, the analysis talks about your typical, familiar story of social pretenses and taking off masks. SO many plays are about that. (It works, I guess). But, for me, what I took from this the most was the power of words and the power we gain through our words. The stories they told, the secrets they revealed, the insults they poured out on each other all were ways to gain power and to keep power. And George ends up winning the power, sorta ironically since he is the weakest at the beginning, by speaking things into existence that, because of the understood "rules" between Martha and George, could not be unspoken. He got what he want through his words. Ugh, it's so good.
Those are some of my initial thoughts and take-a-ways. I'm curious for others who have read this play what they took from it.