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Play delivers unique character experience

October 18, 2012

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?
Actors (from left to right) Sophie Sieh (Honey), Rob Brecher (Nick), Danny Vopava (George) and Dana Clausen (Martha) are featured in the UW-River Falls University Theatre production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” playing at 7:30 p.m. on Oct. 18-20 and 24-27 in the Sanford Syse Theatre of the Kleinpell Fine Arts building. (Photo by University Communications)

A 50th anniversary production of Edward Albee’s deconstruction of marriage, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” will be taking place on the UW-River Falls campus in the Sanford Syse Theatre on Oct. 18-20 and Oct. 24-27.

The play, which features four UWRF actors, tells the story of George, a history professor at a New England university, and Martha, his wife, who ask a younger couple, Nick and Honey, to their home for a nightcap and some emotionally damaging games. The UWRF production uses an updated script that Albee revised for the 2005 Broadway Revival of the play. “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” will be directed by UWRF Professor James Zimmerman.

In a press release Zimmerman said that “the updated script remains truthful to Albee’s original, while allowing audiences to follow the true inner thoughts and motivations of George and Martha. The evening becomes less a story featuring ‘marriage as blood sport,’ and more an exploration of relationships.”

The actors said they saw this show as a challenge. “There’s an intense amount of subtext that is hinted at,” said Danny Vopava, who plays George. “The opportunities for an actor to tackle them range from the easy, which can be boring. Or they can go for something that’s really exciting and something that is more truthful but is going to be incredibly difficult.”

George is past the prime of his life, according to Vopava. “You can play so many levels of self effacement, so many levels of self hatred and so many levels of frustration,” said Vopava.

Dana Clausen, who plays Martha, said that her character is the driving force of the show as she is psychologically “all over the place.” The very first action that takes place on the stage is Clausen’s character “drunk, slamming into the door, not able to open it.” Clausen said that things only get worse from there. “By the end there’s snot flying and tears,” said Clausen.

Vopava said that he and Clausen agree that “our characters that we play in this show are the hardest characters we’ve ever had to play.”

According to the cast, it becomes very clear early on in the proceedings of the night that Martha is rather fond of Nick, played by Rob Brecher. While George seems aware of this fact, Honey remains oblivious for a large part of the show.

“She’s kind of the comedic relieve, I think,” said Sophie Sieh, who plays Honey. Even with Honey’s ability to add some light-weighted moments to an otherwise intense show, Sieh said that “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” is the most serious plays she’s ever been a part of. Sieh said that being able to be a part of a smaller cast was a great experience.

Although the show has some intense, emotional moments, there are spots of levity according to Vopava. “It’s a devastating show,” Vopava said. “It is also embarrassingly funny. You’ll laugh and then you’ll feel guilty about laughing.”

Clausen said that preparing for her role in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” has been exhausting. “I’ve been eating like, four meals a day,” Clausen said. “It’s like being an Olympic athlete. Your body is using up so much energy, physically and emotionally, every time you’re in rehearsal or every time you’re in performance. You’re exhausted and hungry.”

Performances will be held in the Sanfard Syse Theatre, which has 80 available seats. In a press release, the director urged those planning to attend to reserve seats in advance through the box office in Kleinpell Fine Arts or by calling 715-425-3114 to make sure that they get a seat. The cast said that black box shows have sold out in the past.

Being in the smaller black box theatre gives the actors an opportunity to get a little more up close and personal with the audience, according to the cast. “You’re going to be five feet away from us,” said Vopava.

“You might get spit on,” said Clausen.

The cast said that even though Virginia Woolf gets name-checked in the title of the play, you don’t need to be a well read academic to enjoy it.

“You know these people,” said Clausen. “You’ve seen their marriage and you know this is probably what they’re like at home.”

Comments

Benjamin Lamers on 18 Oct 2012: The stories are proofread. However, yes we did mess up on the last name. Obviously, it won't be corrected in the print version, but it has been corrected in the online version. We apologize for dropping the ball on this.

Shelley VOPAVA on 18 Oct 2012: Did anyone proofread this so they got the name correct? If the actors are going to get press, good or bad, at least let their names be correct!