PLAYBILL BRIEF ENCOUNTER With Amy Morton, the Voracious Martha of Broadway's Virginia Woolf
By Robert Simonson
Amy Morton, a Tony nominee for August: Osage County, talks about seeing Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? from both sides now — as current actress on Broadway and past director, regionally.
Chicago-based actress Amy Morton doesn't work in New York often, but when she does, she takes the town by storm. Five seasons ago, Morton starred in Tracy Letts' sprawling, triple-decker, family nightmare August: Osage County as Barbara, the take-charge daughter of monstrous mother Violet. Her fiery performance ("I'm running things now!") earned her a Tony Award nomination. She was also Nurse Ratched in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Now she's back on Broadway (her third Steppenwolf Theatre Company vehicle here) in the latest revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? This time, Letts is not her playwright, but her co-star, playing George to her Martha. Morton knows the play — and Letts' approach to it — very well: She directed him in it several years ago in Atlanta. An all-business performer who doesn't go in for the glamour aspects of the stage, Morton spoke directly and to the point in her talk with Playbill.com.
The last time we spoke you were doing August: Osage County and you talked about living the life of a nun in order to do the play. I imagine that's true for Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as well.
You have directed this play as well.
I assume it's a very different play approaching the material from those two different vantage points, as a director and as an actor.
Having directed it before, did you have information about Martha that you wouldn't have had otherwise as an actress?
Obviously, you saw Tracy play George in Atlanta. Is his performance here similar to that or different?
When did you first encounter the text, in any form — movie, production, script?
What impression did you have?
I've seen a few productions of the play. The language in the play is quite theatrical, somewhat stylized to a certain extent. To me, it seemed that you and Tracy made the dialogue sound much more colloquial and conversational than in any previous production I've seen. Martha and George just seem to be talking. It's very natural.
A conventional piece of wisdom often applied to this play is, by the end of the action, it's actually George and Martha who have the marriage that will endure, and Nick and Honey's union is on its way to dissolution. Do you agree with that?
She'll have had different options than Martha had in the 1940s and 1950s.
Martha is actually offstage a fair amount of the time, tending to Honey when she's sick; seducing Nick.
This is your third visit to Broadway. Does the experience seem different with each time?
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