Edward Albee's famous drama featuring the escapades of two couples on one late Saturday night has been reworked and re-staged but it hasn't lost any of its luster or impact. With veterans Tracy Letts and Amy Morton starring in this production as the simultaneously cruel and sympathetic George and Martha, this production soars. For a three-hour play with two intermissions breaking up the play, Woolf keeps you engaged and wondering.
Much of what occurs on that tumultuous night is uncertain because Albee's story toes the line between truth and illusion. In fact, the lead characters spar in the third act over the state of affairs, and whether some of the previously stated events and relationships are actually real. When everything -- and everyone -- is complicated and peppered with doubt, it might be hard to make sense of what you're seeing. For the audience, with such untrustworthy protagonists at the helm, there's no way to know; much is left up to the viewer's imagination and intuition.
That's the awkward position that the young couple who visits Martha and George is left in when they arrive at the top of the play. Madison Dirks and Carrie Coon play the respectful yet curious couple to perfection. Their contempt for George's actions swing the other way just as quickly as more information is offered up as backstory. As the characters warn up to each other and get comfortable, ulterior motives and sparks of revenge creep into the scene.
Just when you're about to lose hope and sentence these four to the sad fates they deserve, Albee has a way of roping you back in. It goes beyond a deep caring for the characters' future. After all, the funny moments (of which there are many) are always jabs issued directly or indirectly at the expense of someone else.
There's a constant sense of helplessness throughout the play. For the young couple on the couch, and for those in the crowd opposite them. To be convinced at the end of it all that George and Martha do truly love one another, it takes a little something special. These kinds of huge reversals of feelings are justifiable in context for the audience to render, particularly after witnessing similar reversals take place before their eyes. With this cast, that prospect doesn't seem nearly as improbable.