Andrew Thornton and Catherine Babbitt in Albee’s ‘Marriage Play’
Photo by Siggi Ragnar
October 11, 2016
Anyone who is familiar with Who’s
Afraid of Virginia Woolf? knows that
its esteemed playwright, Edward
Albee (who died just weeks ago on
Sept. 16), was a master at linguistic
weaponry. Virtually all of his
rarely-performed one-act Marriage
Play (1986) involves a war of words
that range from simple zingers to
gut-wrenchingly brutal attacks.
Directed by Tim Hedgepeth, the one
act piece is being staged by CAT
Productions as a special presentation
of The Classic Theater, featuring two
of the city's finest actors, Catherine
Babbitt and Andrew Thornton.
Like most Albee plays, this one
combines realism and absurdism,
beginning naturally if not comfortably and soon careening into disillusionment. The first few lines set it up: Jack arrives at home from work, deposits his keys in a bowl and announces to his wife of 30 years that he is leaving her. His wife, Gillian, looks up from her book and responds sarcastically, childishly, which prompts him to repeat his entrance and attempt to explain the inexplicable. This happens twice more, with Gillian offering different reactions, including correcting his grammar; soon both engage in Albee's intriguing word play of syntax, double entendre and more.
Before long, things descend into a sort of semantic free-for-all, especially after he learns that the book she is reading is her own “Book of Days,” a journal filled with 3,000 entries, all commentaries on each time they made love. He demands that she read from it, then labels her writing as being like Hemingway, Henry James or D.H. Lawrence, hurtfully suggesting that even with these intimate accounts, she has no style of her own.
And so it goes, as they open old wounds, reveal that both have been unfaithful and finally arrive at a classic absurdist conclusion: life – marriage – is an illusion and nothing really matters.
As interpreted here, the script is not nearly as bleak as it sounds. Some of Albee's dialogue is stilted and spare, but Mr. Hedgepeth allows his cast to find natural ways of delivering it. At one point, the two have a kicking, biting, knock-down-drag-out brawl that leaves both heaving and breathless. That, too, is amazingly natural, thanks to Tony Ciaravino's ingenious fight choreography.
Lighting design by Kaitlin Muse is appropriately understated, but very effective.
In many ways, the piece could be a continuation of the George and Martha story from Virginia Woolf. It's an inspired production, as much for itself as for its having been scheduled many months before Albee's death.
Marriage Play runs through Oct. 23 at The Classic Theatre, 1924 Fredericksburg Rd. Call 589-8450.
CAT Productions: Marriage Play, by Edward Albee
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