A new theatre group has hit the stage in the Wausau Area. The Actor’s Reading Theatre, is a small group of actors and playwrights that take contemporary plays and dramatically read them on stage without the benefit of sets, props or elaborate costumes. The group’s first work, ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” will premiere in Wausau at the YWCA on Friday – Sunday, June 1 -3, 2012.

Who's afraid of Virgina Woolf

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According to the Wausau Daily Herald:

“Reading theater concentrates on the power of storytelling because it’s just the script and the talent of the actors leading the charge,” said Gary Anderson, artistic director of ART and CEO of the Clarence Darrow Foundation. “I think the art of storytelling is imprinted in our DNA, and this really takes it back to the basics. It’s a very communal experience.” The nonprofit Clarence Darrow Foundation aims to perpetuate the ideals and convictions of famed attorney Clarence Darrow, mainly through works of theater.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is a 1962 play by Albert Albee that delves into the issues of alcoholism and violence as lead characters George and Martha verbally and physically spar in front of their guests during an evening dinner party. The play won a Tony in 1963 and was turned into an Oscar winning film in 1966.

Artistic director Gary Anderson comments on the play:

Audiences and critics alike could not get enough of this masterful play. A dark comedy, it portrays husband and wife George and Martha in a searing night of dangerous fun and games. By the evening’s end, a stunning, almost unbearable revelation provides a climax that has shocked audiences for years. With the play’s razor-sharp dialogue and stripping away of social pretense Woolf becomes a brilliantly original work, an excoriating theatrical experience, surging with shocks of recognition and dramatic fire that has been igniting the stage for years.

The play being locally produced by the Actor’s Reading Theatre is from a 2005 Broadway revival. Starring Gary Anderson, Cynthia Hummel, Lisa Burgess, and Dan Drenk; the performance will have minimal lighting, effects, and set design and instead focus on the words and emotions of the playwright.

Review of the preview performance

I’ve had the opportunity to preview the first act of the play at an open dress rehearsal/preview event. For a play that was written in 1962, the dialogue, story, and theme still holds true for contemporary audiences. Despite a 2005 Broadway revival, this play is not often performed precisely because of its content and dialogue. The play tackles some pretty tough issues including domestic violence, abuse; both physical and verbal, alcoholism, and sexuality. Yet the under this salty veneer, the characters still love each other. It’s a strange juxtaposition where they can only show their love by playing wicked mind games with each other and their late night guests.

Who's afraid of virginia woolf wausauThe play is an emotional roller coaster for the audience. After seeing the 45 minute first act, I was left hanging for more. The slow motion destruction of four people is not something that is easy to watch, but still leaves you on the edge of your seats for more. Tough plays like this is the reason why need to support the arts, and I’m glad to be living in a community that has the ability to launch productions like this.

Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf is labeled as a Dark Comedy. The sniping and in-jokes work well to defuse the situation and create an energy release necessary to make the performance watchable. Domestic violence isn’t funny, but humor is an emotion we can use to understand the tragedy of the situation. The 2nd and 3rd acts get darker and and more violent, and there is a surprise ending that is bound to shock just about everyone.

The June 3rd performance will be a benefit to support the YWCA’s mission of reducing domestic violence. A panel discussion will precede the Sunday performance.

Due to the adult nature and dialogue of this play, parental guidance is strongly recommended.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf
Friday and Saturday, June 1 & 2 at 7:30pm
Sunday June 3, at 2:00pm
YWCA – 613 5th St, Wausau

General Admission $10.00