PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Offers a Saturday Night Furor

By Harry Haun
14 Oct 2012

Carrie Coon
Photo by Monica Simoes

Dirks said he had no problem showing the opportunistic, warts-and-all side of Nick: "I think if you're going to play a character, you gotta like something about him because you gotta play that person — so you find the truth in him, and you play the truth. Whether you find something that's despicable or likable, you just play the truth of it. That's what I do. Personally, I think he comes off as kind of a bastard."

His main problem on opening night was a table lamp, which he accidentally knocked to the floor, sparks flying, during some second-act flailing-about. "It happens," he shrugged. "We've done the show 200 times, and I've knocked that lamp twice before. That's the first time it has fallen over. I wasn't thinking so much for myself as for Allen Lee Hughes' beautiful, beautiful lighting design. I thought, 'Omigod! He's got lighting cues that depend on that light being on.'" By Act Three, the lamp was again operative. "They had to fix it for the third act because it gets much darker, and certainly George turns off that light at the end of the play. It's a plot point, almost."

As his slim-hipped, label-peeling, brandy-plastered little wife, Coon has a very high old time of it, quite convincingly being three-sheets-to-the-wind for two of the play's three acts. She got there using only one model: She has a relative who "got broken up every Christmas — that's how I learned to play a good drunk on stage."

She came to this role directly from playing a Chekhovian teetotaler. "I just finished Tracy's adaptation of Three Sisters in Chicago. I was Masha, who doesn't drink at all."

Her Broadway debut had her trilling. "I'm trying to take it in. It's overwhelming. There are these incredible people that I admire around all the time, and they tell you what a wonderful job you do. It's just surreal to hear that from those people."

Multi-Tony winners led the big parade of first-nighters — Angela Lansbury, Tommy Tune, Cherry Jones, James Earl Jones — followed by some single Tony winners: Leslie Uggams, Judd Hirsch, Elizabeth Ashley and Victoria Clark.

Then: Kimmarie and Dashiell Eaves; Steppenwolf's Ma Joad, Lois Smith, and David Margulies; directors David Esbjornson and David Cromer; The Times' Bruce Weber and Charles Isherwood; new Signature Theatre Company resident playwright David Henry Hwang and his Chinglish star Jennifer Lim; Playbill's Robert Viagas; Michael Feinstein and Terrence Flannery, and Laura Osnes and hubby Nathan Johnson.

Also: Dick Cavett; Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo's Arian Moayed, who turns film director in February, shooting "This Island Made Me"; Jon Michael Hill, a Tony nominee for Letts' Superior Donuts; Alan Alda, who was last on Broadway in Glengarry Glen Ross — in the upcoming Al Pacino role; Krissy Shields; producer Kenneth Greenblatt, busting his buttons over this one and looking forward to doing the same with Glengarry Glen Ross and Matilda; Andre De Shields; novelist Harry Stein; Steppenwolf actress Sally Murphy, Morton's sister in Letts' August: Osage County; Linda Emond of the last Death of a Salesman; Crystal A. Dickinson; T.R. Knight, famously late of "Grey's Anatomy"; John Leguizamo, the one-man-show himself; Rachel Dratch; playwright Will Eno, whose play, The Realistic Jones, was recently done at Yale Rep with Letts starring in the lead role; Maria Dizzia from Off-Broadway's recent Uncle Vanya by Soho Rep; Sia Furler; Jenna Fischer, and Elizabeth I. McCann, who produced the 2005 Kathleen Turner-Bill Irwin Virginia Woolf.