Last week, the Mermaids performed Edward Albee’s play ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,’ a dark-comedy play that dives into the concept of false illusions and absurdism. The story centred around four characters who have gathered for an evening of games, alcohol and anguish: George (George Watts), Martha (Annabel Steele), Nick (Griffin Godsick) and Honey (Brittany Barwise). Right from the exposition of the play, it became evident that George and Martha’s marriage was something out of the ordinary as they switch between flirtatious banter and aggressive insults paired with the myriad of alcohol bottles scattered throughout the set. Watts and Steele had an amazing start to the program; their capricious interactions truly resembled the confused and erratic nature of George and Martha as characters.
Soon after, the remaining two characters were introduced: Nick, a young professor, and his wife Honey. At first, it seemed as though these characters would be minute in terms of the play as a whole, seeming as only passing members within the plot. However, Nick and Honey were detrimental in revealing the true demeanour of the party hosts through helping to reveal Martha and George’s obsession with fantasy. Barwise played quite the character; her rendition of a ditsy professor’s wife provided some light moments amongst the utter state of confusion and dark theme of the play.
I applaud the Mermaids for tackling such an elusive and elevated play. The director, Charlie Flynn, was able to produce a program that demonstrated the complications that ensue when people blur the lines between fact and fiction. That being said, I spent a majority of the play completely confused as to what was going on as I had no prior knowledge about the play. It was long, over two hours, and it was not until the third act that I understood that Martha and George were disturbed; they had a false sense of reality. I understand now that this was most likely Albee’s aim when he wrote the play; it involves the audience in the same emotional experiences that the characters were grappling with throughout the entirety of the house party. The show ended with Steele breaking down into tears―and the audience along with her. Simply, ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf’ was a roller-coaster of emotions, having me laugh one moment and the next on the verge of tears. This attests to the quality of the actors and actresses. Given this, the Mermaids’ production truly held the audience in the palm of their hands and provided a program that exceeded all of my expectations.