White Rock play explores deception and illusion

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? onstage July 18 to 28
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(At back) Tamara Prescott and Damon Calderwood and (front) Harrison MacDonald and Alexandra Quispe play the two couples whose informal drinking party becomes a festival of mind games in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, onstage July 18 to 28.

Fear is at the very heart of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Peninsula Productions’ latest fully staged presentation, coming to their black box studio theatre at Centennial Park from July 18 to 28.

Chronicling a marathon drinking session between two couples, Edward Albee’s acidic, acerbic 1962 drama peels away layer upon layer of deception and illusion among its characters to reveal elements of raw fear and despair at the core of all human existence — and the coping mechanisms we use to counter them.

Directed by Alaina Holland (who most recently helmed White Rock Players’ Pride and Prejudice), it’s a powerful piece well-known as a tour-de-force vehicle for experienced actors. And it promises an evening of challenging, stimulating and, ultimately, cathartic theatre, following up on Peninsula Productions fearless, uncompromising production of Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit last summer.

The title — a pun on the old song from the Walt Disney cartoon The Three Little Pigs — substitutes the famed, and famously troubled, British proto-feminist author for the “big bad wolf."

A typical academic joke, the parody was being sung at a university faculty party from which a middle-aged couple, George and Martha, have just returned home. But its echoes linger, with added significance, as the night wears on.

George (Damon Calderwood) is an associate history professor, while Martha (Tamara Prescott) is the daughter of the president of his college. While Martha’s invitation to a young couple they met at the party to join them at home for a drink seems innocuous enough, Nick (Harrison MacDonald) and Honey (Alexandra Quispe) are in for more than they expected.

The informal post-party gathering soon devolves into psycho-drama, as the liquor takes effect, and, figuratively, the gloves come off.

It’s evident that the older couple’s union is far from a happy one: Martha’s constant needling of George is rooted in frustration at his passivity and lack of ambition, while George’s passive-aggressive retaliation is just as vicious and abusive.

And Nick and Honey soon fall victim to the alcohol-fuelled games-playing of Martha and George — and a deceptive tapestry of anecdote and recollection woven by them both — finding that their own problems and vulnerabilities have become fair game for the merciless antagonists.

But there’s yet another layer lurking beneath the obvious conflict: Could it be that the ongoing toxicity of Martha and George’s relationship is actually their refuge from an even more unbearable truth?

Performances of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf are at 7 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, and at 2 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays. The theatre is located next to Centennial Arena at the park, at 14600 North Bluff Rd. For tickets ($32.09), call 604-536-8335, or visit showpass.com/whos-afraid-of-virginia-woolf/



Alex Browne

About the Author: Alex Browne

Alex Browne is a longtime reporter for the Peace Arch News, with particular expertise in arts and entertainment reporting and theatre and music reviews.
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