Queen's University — Since 1873
30th March 2012

Confrontation and comedic farce

Impromptu Productions brings a dueling couple, awkward silences and brandy to the Kingston Yacht Club in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

Matthew Davis and Helen Bretzke play George and Martha, a 
dysfunctional couple whose arguments continually escalate throughout the play.
Matthew Davis and Helen Bretzke play George and Martha, a dysfunctional couple whose arguments continually escalate throughout the play. (Corey Lablans)

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Lies, games and violence are the necessities of modern entertainment, making it seem like we have to constantly crank up the intensity just to feel something.

But Edward Albee’s Tony award-winning play, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, brings out a range of emotional responses, from laughter and compassion to shock and horror, no longer thought possible with our contemporary sensibilities.

Director Carl Jackson and a small cast of four brings a rendition of Albee’s play to the Kingston Yacht Club, recreating a night of drinking that quickly turns sour. Scathing words and the occasional physical threat fly between older couple George and Martha, as their guests, young couple Nick and Honey, watch on with equal embarrassment and interest.

Local veterans to the stage, Matthew Davis and Helen Bretzke play George and Martha, showing off impeccable comedic timing. The duo snap back and forth from one emotional extreme to the next, yet always reel the audience back to the status quo just when either their violent confrontation or comedic farce is teetering on the edge of excessive.

The young members of the cast, Ben Bankas and Catherine Owsik play Nick and Honey, demonstrating immense potential as stage actors. Their ability to play off of one another allows them to keep pace with the more experienced Davis and Bretzke. Owsik is an Assistant News Editor at the Journal.

The tiny auditorium at the Kingston Yacht Club provides an intimate environment in which the audience becomes a part of the action. You feel like an uninvited voyeur privileged to the unfolding of private arguments and touching hilarity.

The intimacy allows the audience to feel the same self-consciousness as Nick and Honey while watching the domestic shouting match escalate to physical confrontation.

Scored to nothing but the steady clink of ice in brandy glasses, Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? doesn’t shy away from the awkward silence, but uses these moments of tension to let the cast’s faces and movements do the talking.

In a three-hour production that is entirely played out in a single set with four actors, it can be easy to lose the audience by sheer tediousness. Yet the cast doesn’t fall into the trap of overcompensation by overacting, nor do they ever allow the audience a moment of inattention.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? plays tonight and tomorrow at 7:30 p.m. with a 2 p.m. matinee on Saturday at the Kingston Yacht Club. General admission is $20 and $17 for students

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