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Dark drama brought to life in Vail

Allie Subranni
Vail Daily Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Kristin Anderson/Vail DailyVail Theater: Tricia Swenson, center right, asks for another drink while rehearsing for "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf" on Monday at the Cascade Village Theater in Vail.
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VAIL, Colorado –Stressful economic times can strain even the best of marriages, so imagine if you had married someone you didn’t like all that much to begin with.

That’s just the tension playwright Edward Albee hoped to invoke in audiences with his famous 1962-piece “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.” The Vail Valley Theatre Company hopes their audience will experience the same flood of emotions when they perform the drama beginning tonight at the Cascade Village Theatre in Vail.

The company usually performs light-hearted musicals, but director Robert Wagner really wanted to tackle something completely different.

“We did (a drama) a couple of years ago and that was fun, and this one is so cutting edge and we wanted to do something different and to challenge (the actors),” Wagner said. “We only have four actors in this, and we want to show the valley that we have some great talent in this community.”

This play, which was adadpted as a Oscar-winning film in 1966, speaks to the darkness of the human soul. And while the film – the first to garner Oscar nominations in all categories – was not the first to scrutinize marriage, it was unique in how deep the plot delved into the smallest details of unhappiness and feelings of failure.

“It is a dark comedy, believe it or not, and it does deal with a lot of different things, like for instance alcoholism, and destructive sadomasochism in the ways that the older couple deal with each other in that living room,” Wagner said.

The play has four main characters, an older couple named George and Martha (played by Lance Schober and Kaylee Brennand) who have been together for 23 years, and a younger couple named Honey and Nick (played by Todd Frye and Tricia Swenson). The plotline is centered around these people whose marriages are based on nothing more than illusions about their partners, their lives and their reasons for marrying.

The audiences growing curiosity is the real appeal of watching such an intimate play, Wagner said.

“They proceed to get really drunk and all of their lives and their skeletons and the character defects come out of the closet and unfold in those two hours of the play,” he said.

For Wagner, the real joy in directing this play has been watching the actors bring these difficult characters to life.

“Tricia Swenson is playing the role of Honey and she has never really had much of an acting background … it’s funny because you get to see a perky TV host in the morning, and on these evenings you are going to see something very different.”

Swenson is particularly excited to show the audience all that she has learned through this experience, and to bring Edward Albee’s words to life.

“This is my first play, so it is definitely unlike anything I have done before,” Swenson said. “It is an interesting escape to play another character, to bring yourself to where these minds of these characters go. The words are so powerful, I feel the adrenaline and even the sadness that occurred that night at George and Martha’s house.”

Kaylee Brennand plays the volatile role of Martha, who bullies her husband George.

“She is outrageous and vulgar, but at the same time so very damaged,” Brennand said. “It is exhausting keeping up but at the same time, exhilarating.

“Being able to trust the other actors in a performance is invaluable and I have truly appreciated it. … You have to keep a sense of humor, particularly when you have such dark material,” Brennand continued.

Considering that the entire play takes place in Martha and George’s living room, it’s a challenge for the actors to give the characters the depth that Albee’s play requires.

“Albee is a master wordsmith and storyteller,” Brennand said. “His portrayal of these incredibly dysfunctional people and the games they play is chilling.”

E-mail comments about this story to cschnell@vaildaily.com.


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