The lights dim and you are thrust into the intimacy of George and Martha's living room. A little off kilter, it parallels the imperfection of this insult-hurling, drinking, violent and abusive middle-aged couple, effectively setting the scene for Alberta Theatre Projects' production of Edward Albee's Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf?
So why, you ask, should I go to a play featuring a dysfunctional relationship? Because it completely strips away all the illusions present in a marriage, leaving us with a raw view of reality which, shockingly, doesn't always have a Disney ending, even if you think you've found your Prince Charming or Cinderella.
"This is a surprising and brutally honest view of a relationship complete with twists and turns, contrasting the very funny and very serious," says Artistic Director Bob White.
This year marks the 40th anniversary of this originally controversial play, and although some of its shock appeal has been lost in recent years, it hasn't lost much. White effectively takes Edward Albee's work and carries it into a new positive light, which provides the audience with a sense of hope for our seemingly doomed couple.
"Love is when you want the other person to be the best person they can be," says White. "Even if your attempts, like Martha's, are a little demanding."
No matter how dysfunctional they may seem, George and Martha have an overwhelming grasp of communication. The play articulates a definite message about its crucial role in a marriage. As Valerie Anne Pearson (Martha) so aptly puts it, "how often in your life do you get to say exactly what you're thinking?" Pearson's character takes this opportunity more than once.
Despite the characters' imperfections this production is undoubtedly a wonderful love story.
"There's a lot of humour in the play, a lot of love in the play," says Pearson. "So you better be prepared for the ride."
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf runs through Nov. 1 at the Martha Cohen Theatre. For more information call 294-7402.