Capsule Reviews

Our critics weigh in on local theater

Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Edward's Albee's blistering, award-winning 1962 masterpiece spews its toxic perfume with mesmerizing vigor in Country Playhouse's thoroughly fascinating production. Superbly cast and directed with clarifying perception by Penny Corden, America's own dysfunctional husband and wife, George and Martha, come to horrifying life. This blackest of black comedies is a blowtorch of a play -- cruel, humorous, outrageous -- stripping away the four characters' pretenses along with the audience's skin. And this acid-etched production is as good as it gets. Cocktails securely planted in fists, George and Martha lash out at each other with blood lust. The action begins at another drunken faculty party, when guests arrive. The fresh-meat visitors elicit the worst of George and Martha's bile, recriminations, lies and illusions. By sunrise, no one is unscathed. Although spent and chastened, George and Martha clasp each other in their first true embrace. George, unambitious to a fault, is brought to radiant life by Bob Maddox, who relishes his needle-sharp retorts. When Martha breaks the cardinal rule in the couple's desperate game of love, she sends him careening over the edge. Maddox takes every opportunity to unleash Albee's paroxysms of rage and betrayal, while also managing to display George's keen, savage wit and intelligence. Martha (Lisa Schofield) is truly something out of a nightmare -- the earth mother from hell -- and Schofield transforms what could be a blowsy, braying caricature into someone you've probably met at a drunken office party. She gives this gorgon a hidden soul, revealing her dashed hopes and wasted life, making her implosion at play's end all the more stunning. As Martha seduces puffed-up would-be stud Nick (Jeff Featherstone, in a perfect incarnation), she takes his tie and wraps it around her hand, pulling him to her. It might as well be a noose. Nick's wife of convenience, the mousy, brandy-swilling Honey, is played by the spot-on Stacie Williams. None of these fabulous four makes a false move. Ensemble acting of the highest caliber in one of American drama's supreme achievements -- what more could you want? Through February 26. 12802 Queensbury, 713-467-4497.

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