Untamed Woolf: Bill Irwin and Kathleen Turner Draw Blood in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? * Written by Edward Albee * Directed by Anthony Page * Starring Kathleen Turner and Bill Irwin * Longacre Theatre, New York City (open-ended run)

We usually think of productions of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? as defined by the diva-actress playing Martha. And certainly the new Broadway revival gets its star power from Ms. Serial Mom, Kathleen Turner, who's gotten old and wide-hipped enough to play Edward Albee's famously boozy, sexually rapacious professor's wife. But the big news of the production is Bill Irwin's revelatory performance as George.

Although he's won kudos as a dramatic actor in Brecht and Beckett works, Irwin is best known as a new-vaudevillian clown, and it's fascinating to watch him apply his wizardly physical prowess to express George's collapsed, passive-aggressive demeanor. He has a sunny, placid Norman Rockwell face, but he can turn and pounce as swiftly as a rattlesnake. For all of Martha's braying and taunting the younger couple (superbly played by David Harbour and Mireille Enos) they've dragged home from a faculty party, the play is really dominated by the disarming, relentless word games through which George lays traps for the others. …