Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Playing hooky - to a daytime screening of Great Adaptations - at the Coral Gables Art Cinema. A free series of classic films being shown at lunchtime for the month of October. Who can resist a film that comes with a viewer discretion advisory warning as it includes 'scenes of assault, sexual references, language, intense alcohol consumption and violence'.
Starring the ultimate 60s stars of screen, stage and real life. Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. She won an Oscar. He didn't. I'd love to have been a fly on the wall at home the evening of the ceremony when the two had a few drinks!!! The acting of both was mesmerizing - and in this four-hander film - so too were the performances of co-stars George Segal and Sandy Dennis.
Made in 1966 the film still shocks as two intelligent, articulate, beautiful people destroy, humiliate and assault each other all in the name of booze, marriage and one up-man-ship. The cloak of civility and respectability protecting the world of academia is ripped away and exposed, in this American college at least, as savage, competitive and sordid. Immersed in their destructive, painful world, the solution seems obvious. The professor and his wife, the daughter of the President, should divorce. But as the film progresses we come to realize that like many real life seemingly mismatched relationships they are totally dependent on each other. The games they play are of their own making. They enjoy hurting each other and probably could not survive without the emotional enmeshment of their mutually destructive relationship.
Director Mike Nichols leads the audience through a disturbing roller coaster ride of emotions and refuses to offer a phony happy ending or even a credible solution. You could put money on the fact that George and Martha are going to get up the next day - and rip each other apart all over again.
The only relief is that as audience we get to go home - and hopefully not to a relationship that leaves you feeling like a wet rag, shaken, stirred and with a horrible sense of impending doom.
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf ? I am.
Ellen Frazer-Jameson is a journalist, author, actress. theater producer and drama coach. She co hosted the largest live late night radio show in Europe for the BBC and has appeared on national TV shows and taken leading roles on stage. She lives in Miami and London and loves to dance Argentine tango.