For Alex LaClair, the idea of directing New Direction Community Theater’s production of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was like climbing up a slippery slope.
The show, based on the 1962 Edward Albee play, and was later turned into a movie starring Elizabeth Taylor, recounts two couples’ emotionally charged evening opens Friday, June 7.
“My first thought was no,” LaClair said when offered the director’s reins. “It’s not only a hard play, but it’s also a mountain. Even if you’re able to tackle it and get to its peak, you still have [to navigate] the way down, which is just as dangerous. And there’s so many pits and crevices that if a person chooses to go down, they can easily fall and can easily fall on minor things.”
LaClair has been studying the 98-page, three-act play since October of last year to avoid such falls.
Soon after casting finished, Keith Mervine, who was cast in the lead role of George, dropped out due to illness. The role was challenging to fill due in part to the sheer volume of dialogue by the lead.
So LaClair stepped out of the director’s chair and into the lead role. Assistant director Charles Watley now is the director. Mervine will serve as an assistant director.
“I have a weird ability to learn lines fast, so I stepped” into the role LaClair said.
Rick Thompson is producing the play, and Cara Brzozowski is serving as an assistant producer of the five-character, two-plus-hour play.
“It’s a classic, for one thing,” said Lynne O’Meara, a Realtor and food blogger from La Plata who plays the role of George’s long-suffering wife, Martha. “It’s an amazing story, and it’s very entertaining, but it’s also kind of a throwback.”
The play features two couples who spend an evening together.
George and Martha are two middle-aged people who have been married for a long time. George is an underachiever; he holds down a job as a college professor but has not advanced up the ladder, much to the chagrin of Martha. Resigned to his situation, George decides to have a nice, quiet life with his unappreciative wife.
But Martha has her faults as well. It’s clear the marriage is one of convenience and that George doesn’t stir any desires within her, as she becomes lecherous with the handsome and much younger guest, Nick (Scott Jacoby).
“She’s complex and has so many layers. It’s what I love about doing this show,” said O’Meara, whose last role was in “Calendar Girls” for the Port Tobacco Players. “She’s disgusted with her husband, he’s a flop and they have this back-and-forth sparring. It’s one of those love-hate relationships.”
For his part, Nick has confidence and ambition, but he gets browbeaten by George.
“Nick has ambition confident about what he does, but he’s almost being taken advantage of by George,” said Jacoby of St. Mary’s City, who is an engineer at Naval Air Station Patuxent River. “I have this view of myself and how competent I am, but on this night we’re playing by George’s rules, and Nick is just lost. He doesn’t know what’s going on most of the time. He is trying to find out if George is lying or telling the truth.”
Nick’s better half is Honey (Amanda LePore), who appears naive, though looks may be deceiving.
“She wants to be there [for Nick] and have this loving marriage. In the beginning, their marriage is great, but there’s more to it,” said LePore, a pet sitter and actress who lives in California. George and Martha “could be us, so we either prevent that or change something.”
New Direction Community Theater will stage “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” at 7 p.m. on Friday, June 7, Saturday, June 8, Friday, June 15, and Saturday, June 15, and at 2 p.m. on Sunday, June 9, at Long Beach Community Center at 5845 Calvert Beach Blvd. in St. Leonard.
The play will also be staged at 8 p.m. on Friday, June 21, and at 3 p.m. on Sunday, June 23, at Black Box Theater at 4185 Indian Head Highway in Indian Head. Tickets for all performances are $15, $12 for students, seniors and military. For more information, go to www.ndct.org.