MARITAL HISS: Old Academy Brings Bitter Classic to Life


Audiences were wowed when Old Academy premiered Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? earlier this month. This classic of modern literature features electric repartee from a talented, razor-sharp cast. Now thru the end of June. 

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Who’s up for three hours of verbal volleys at break-neck speed? Judy Gotwald’s review describes a riveting production that left many audience members too stunned to break away during both short intermissions provided:

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Old Academy veteran Nancy Frick directed the four-member cast with stage management by Ashley Izard and Pat Pelletreau.

The cast includes two veteran Old Academy players and two new to the East Falls stage. Move over Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton (the original movie leads). The Old Academy cast rivals the best in a play that demands mental agility and emotional depth.

Albee’s play takes us back to the early 1960s when the role of women in a marriage typically bowed to ambitions of the men. The play pits two couples against one another—husband against wife and couple against couple.

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George and Martha, played by John Barker and Charlotte Higgins, are a middle-aged couple. George is a history professor at a small New England college. Martha is the daughter of the college’s founder and president. Their relationship shifts from nasty to dependent to treacherous.

Nick and Honey, played by Jeffrey Barth and Kate Graham, are new to the campus. Nick, at 26, joined the biology department—or is it the math department? He has already achieved recognition, having earned his master’s degree at age 19. He married a childhood friend with the best of intentions.

The couples meet for a steady flow of alcohol and conversation following a reception for new faculty. Nick’s promising future reminds George of his failed ambitions—as if his wife ever allowed him to forget.

The marital challenges and tensions are revealed in a series of vicious, sadistic and compelling mental games.

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The older couple is first at bat. They are at each other’s throats within minutes. The audience must work with the characters to determine how much of the dialog is part of the couple’s accepted ground rules in their relationship, how much is meant to be hateful and hurtful, and how much is true or illusion.

The younger couple’s experience is opposite, beginning with the appearance of utmost respect and affection and slowly peeling away layers of resentment.

The themes in the play are many but the overall play seeks truth through an engaging and entertaining drama filled with twists and surprises.

Well done, Old Academy!

Performances: June 10, 11, 17, 18, 19, 24, 25, 26
Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. •  Sunday at 2 pm

Old Academy Players
3544 Indian Queen Lane
215-843-1109 (box office & info)

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This review was first published on Town New Today, Judy Gotwald’s local news blog covering East Falls, Manayunk, & Roxborough. 



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