The Herald-Times


THEATER REVIEW: Fighting games: Ivy Tech presents ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

By Doris Lynch
H-T Reviewer |
January 28, 2013

Credit director Patricia McKee with keeping an excellent quartet of actors sparring, feinting, avoiding and coming back for more in Edward Albee’s scintillating comedic drama about marriage, and the strategies couples use to stay married.

In her swansong Bloomington performance, Diane Kondrat gives a loud, “braying,” in-your-face portrayal of Martha, a faculty wife in Edward Albee’s play about an early a.m. party, where two couples are getting to know each other at a small New England college. As the college president’s daughter, Kondrat keeps her rage simmering to boiling all night as she denigrates — no, eviscerates — her husband for his failures as an academic. Matching her one for one — sometimes in Latin — is Bill Simmons as her bogged-down, history professor husband, George.

It’s 1962. Most women don’t work outside the home, and this couple has issues. In some of the most vituperative and witty language to ever flame onstage, Albee examines the nature of love, professional success and long coupledom — what we give our spouses, and more importantly, what we inflict upon them.

Pacing, punchy, using Jeff Grafton’s ’60s living-room set like a boxing ring, Martha tears George apart, cell by cell, in front of her guests, a young faculty couple new to town, Nick, the biology professor (Matthew Roland) and his wife, Honey (Emily Mange).

Cocky and smart, Roland’s Nick earned his MA by age 19. At first, he’s mildly amused by the mind games his hosts present, but soon realizes the potential for serious fallout to his own career that they might cause.

Mange, an IU senior, brings a lovely ingenue quality to her role of a wife who can’t handle her brandy. Her comic timing is excellent, and she shows you the stirrings of a young woman, under her husband’s thumb, who is just learning to speak for herself.

“Woolf” depicts a series of changing alliances. First it’s Martha against George, then George slyly attacking Nick when the women go to the powder room, then Martha pokes fun at Honey before flirting outrageously with Nick.

As the three acts progress, you can see in the actors’ faces the weariness and psychological wounding that they have inflicted upon each other all evening. At one point, Nick collapses to the floor and covers his ears, as Martha and George begin yet another bruising attack against each other.

That’s not to say that this play is not riotously funny, especially the first act, where the insults elicit not only laughs but also shocked surprise.

The mirroring of couples — the older and jaded Martha and George with the young newbies, Nick and Honey — makes one wonder how the new marriage will progress. Will they also learn to love by scarring each other?

With more personal and biting attacks — some true, some fictional — Martha and George keep raising the stakes but also dart back into fiercely protecting each other against Nick. At one point, George turns away from the drama to read in a chair, and it’s fun to watch Kondrat hustle over and fruitlessly demand his attention.

In the third act — significantly during a moment of solitude — Kondrat reveals a vulnerable Martha. All night, Martha has fought fiercely while remaining emotionally inviolate, but here her voice breaks and she speaks quietly. Also, in the third act, Bill Simmons shows a protective caring that George’s elevated language has hidden earlier. Both performances showed much range and depth.

Ambrose Bierce called love “a temporary insanity curable by marriage.” The marriages dissected here are crass, broken and breaking, yet especially in Martha and George’s, you discover a surprising resiliency that you know will last.

For an intense evening of high-octane theater, don’t miss this show.

If you go

WHO: Ivy Tech Community Student Productions

WHAT: “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday and Feb. 6-9

WHERE: Ivy Tech John Waldron Arts Center’s Rose Firebay, 122 S. Walnut St., Bloomington

TICKETS: $15-$25. Available at the Buskirk-Chumley box office, 114 E. Kirkwood Ave., 812-323-3020 or


WARNING: Contains adult content, strong language.

Copyright: 2013

About Ivy Tech Community College

Ivy Tech Community College is Indiana's largest public postsecondary institution and the nation's largest singly accredited statewide community college system, accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. Ivy Tech has campuses throughout Indiana and also serves thousands of students annually online. It serves as the state's engine of workforce development, offering associate degrees, long- and short-term certificate programs, industry certifications, and training that aligns with the needs of the community. The College provides a seamless transfer to other colleges and universities in Indiana, as well as out of state, for a more affordable route to a bachelor's degree.