Virginia Woolf Howls Its Last on Broadway Sept. 4

By Robert Simonson
04 Sep 2005

Bill Irwin in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Bill Irwin in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Photo by Joan Marcus

The praised new revival of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, which opened on March 20 to largely positive notices, will end its run on Sept. 4. It will have played eight previews and 177 performances.

Woolf was nominated for several Tony Awards, but came away with a single win, for Bill Irwin's performance as George.

Woolf stars Irwin and Kathleen Turner as the warring married couple George and Martha. Both received admiring appraisals from critics, many of whom openly admitted in print that their expectations had been somewhat modest.

Prior to its opening on Broadway, the production played a four-week tryout in Boston.

The Broadway revival is the first for the famous play since Albee himself directed it in 1976. Anthony Page directs and David Harbour and Mirelle Enos complete the cast. The show is playing at the Longacre Theatre.



In the play, new professor Nick and his innocent wife Honey get more than they bargained for when they are invited over for a night of drinking, debauchery and digs at the home of seemingly meek fellow academic George and his husband-hating, self-loathing, guest baiting wife Martha.

John Lee Beatty designed the set. Also part of the design team are costume designer Jane Greenwood, lighting designer Peter Kaczorowski and sound designer Mark Bennett.

Woolf is produced by Elizabeth Ireland McCann, Daryl Roth, Scott Rudin, Terry Allen Kramer, Roger Berlind and James L. Nederlander.

The lengthy, high-voltage play hit Broadway like a thunderbolt in 1962, shocking and electrifying audiences and critics with its volatile language and corrosive portrayal of a hostile American marriage. Previously known for a few admired Off-Broadway one-acts, Albee overnight became the country's most famous and lionized young playwright. The cast included Uta Hagen as Martha (in a career-capping performance), Arthur Hill as George, George Grizzard as Nick and Melinda Dillon as Honey. Alan Schneider directed.

The show won the Tony and the New York Drama Critics Circle awards for Best Play. Hagen, Hill and Schneider also won Tonys for their work.

It was the odds-on favorite to capture the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. Indeed, jurors John Mason Brown and John Gassner recommended it for the prize, but the decision was overruled by Columbia University's advisory board. One member of the board called it "a filthy play." The move led to the resignation of Brown and Gassner. Most observers believe that when Columbia awarded Albee's A Delicate Balance the Pulitzer in 1967, it was making up for the gaffe it made concerning Woolf.

Other actresses who played Martha during the original Broadway run included Elaine Stritch, Mercedes McCambridge, Nancy Kelly and Haila Stoddard. Donald David, Henderson Forsythe and Sheppard Strudwick all played George. Eileen Fulton and Rochelle Oliver filled in as Honey, and Ben Piazza replaced Grizzard as Nick.