Batavia stage prepares for ‘Virginia Woolf’

The Albright Theatre Company of Batavia presents a dark and shrewd play about love, life and booze from one of America’s most esteemed playwrights.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” will run weekends Feb. 28 to March 15. Performance times are at 8 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays at the Albright Theatre, located on the third floor of the Batavia Government Building.

Written by Edward Albee, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” won the Tony award in 1963. The film adaptation starred Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor.

It is directed by Jennifer Ring of Batavia, who has had this play on her wish list for years, she said.

“It’s a wonderful, well-written script about some of the darker sides of life and love and twisted things people do to each other, and I thought it was very captivating.”

The play is about George, a university history professor and his volatile relationship with wife Martha, the daughter of the university’s president. After a party, George and Martha invite newlyweds Nick and Honey over for a night cap. Drinks flow, walls come down and the insults begin to fly. The whole play takes place in George and Martha’s living room.

Though the play tackles serious themes, it is also viciously funny and moves at a fast clip, propelled by Albee’s scathing dialogue. This is exactly what drew Ring to the play: the whip-smart dialogue and cleverly crafted characters who are masters of manipulation.

“There’s a lot of drinking, and when you’ve been drinking, you take down some of the barriers and inhibitions that keep you from saying the really nasty thoughts you have about people in your life,” she said. “These people go for the gut with each other, and there’s something very cathartic about watching that. All of us have had that moment in our lives where you wish you could say that thing, and knock ‘em dead with your words and these people do. It’s a little twisted, but it’s very engaging to watch.”

The cast is having fun with it too — most of them have wanted to do it for years as well, she said.

“These people are very passionate about it, and that’s great because the play is about passion,” she said. “It’s a bumpy, wild night full of laughter and amazing truths and a lot of passion. There’s a lot of humor in the show. It’s not slapstick funny, but these people get some good zingers in. Come for a good time and enjoy yourself.”

To go along with the theme, beer and wine will be sold at the Saturday performances and possibly Fridays as well.

The ensemble cast includes: Gary Puckett of Aurora as George, Maureen Morley of Batavia as Martha, Heidi Swarthout of Oswego as Honey, and Alexander Seymour of Aurora as Nick.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is supported by stage manager Amy Setencich of Batavia and producer Veronica Krystal of Bloomingdale.