Wednesday morning was the first time I’d drank coffee in a month and I was buzzing all day. It helped me to get caught up on my journal though.
It was a few degrees above zero for my ride to English class, so I wore only one scarf and my spring gloves. But it was scheduled to drop to minus three by the time the lecture was over so I had my other scarf and my winter gloves in my backpack.
I’ve been re-reading A Streetcar Named Desire in preparation for my exam. I’d like to see Lucille Ball. Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance and William Frawley as Stella, Stanley, Eunice and Mitch, with Tallulah Bankhead as Blanche.
Scott was about five minutes late as usual. He started the class by showing us a video of an American Dad parody of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Roger and Francine are pretending to be a married couple in social settings. They meet a younger couple named Rick and Candy and invite them home for dinner. It becomes something like the Albee play when they start making up each other’s back stories in front of the couple. Francine says Roger is an economics professor when he wanted to be a political science professor, but Francine says, “It’s too late now because it’s been established.” Roger begins to flirt with Candy the way Martha flirts with Nick in the play. He says of Francine, “Mandy used to look good before she went to rehab.” “I never went to rehab!” “You have now. It’s been established.” “Make me a drink!” “Yes love, whatever love wants. Amanda wears a hairpiece.” Then Roger tells them that Amanda killed their baby and couldn’t have another because her uterus was polluted with syphilis. Then they start fist fighting and the young couple run out. It ends in a similar way to the ending of the Albee play, with the two of them calmly devastated in the aftermath of their battle.
Scott told us that there is a long-term plan to revitalize King’s College Circle and Tower Road and turn them into cobblestone car free paths lined with oak trees. They might also put a pond in front of Hart House like there was a hundred years ago. The car parking would go underground. He said that it wouldn’t be finished in our lifetime though.
We broke off into groups to discuss three passages of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” that Scott quoted. Four of us middle aged students were in a group together: Christine, Steve and British student who also comments a lot during lectures. We talked about Martha’s monologue when she is alone, which seems to reveal that her relationship with her father is not as hunky dory as she lets on in company, and that perhaps there was even incest when she was young.
Martha’s first husband was the boy that mowed the lawns at Miss Muff’s girl’s school. Scott thought that name “Miss Muff’s” suggested there was some muff diving going on. Martha is not vulnerable until this monologue. It was because of Martha’s sexuality that Albee’s play was turned down for the Pulitzer. Women were expected to have children, go to parties and support their husbands. Martha is more of an equal to her husband, but less so in the film version.
The play is about madness and mind games of truth and illusion. Madness is prominent in all of Albee’s plays. Did the young gardener even exist? Martha committed the sin of making public what should be private.
It’s absurdist theatre like “Six Characters in Search of an Author” by Luigi Pirandello.
It’s also about fertility. Martha and George are barren and sterile in a sterile environment that produces sterility. Nick and Honey may also be unable to have children.
It’s about war in New Carthage. Carthage was totally destroyed in the third Punic War.
At the end George and Martha’s crutch is dead and so things must change.
Walpurgisnacht is the night of evil spirits. George recites the requiem mass in Latin. The play ends with fear and relief. It is as if language has died and they are speaking like robots. Virginia Woolf committed suicide because she was afraid of herself.
The next movie that Elizabeth Taylor did was The Taming of the Shrew, in which she just shrieks and throws furniture around.
George is clearly depressed.
The recognition scene in theatre or anagnorisis is a moment in a play when a character makes a critical discovery.
Nothing is being said but they are talking constantly. David Mamet copied this style. Silences are also repetitions. There is presence and absence.
Martha lacks a mother.
Sandy Dennis miscarried during the shooting of the film.
Martha and George are Nick and Honey’s future.
There is a lot of baby talk and infantilization. There are also a lot of animal references, which also recur in Albee’s work. To call someone an animal is to assume superiority over them. But referring to people as animals is also a way of masking human behaviour. The big bad wolf in Little Red Riding Hood was a human rapist. George calls Nick an ant. Martha calls him a houseboy. He is a sexual pawn. No one until Martha has ever treated him that way.
Do George and Martha require an audience? They want to hurt others. They are co-dependent. Feeding each other’s illusions has destroyed both of them.
Martha is promiscuous all the time.
In Albee’s plays the young, good-looking guy always gets it.
The film producers didn’t want “bugger” but “hump the hostess” was okay.
Philip Roth referred to Edward Albee’s “pansy rhetoric”. People thought the play was an attack on heterosexuality. Albee was seen as a threat. An angry and intelligent female was important to the voice of the time. Martha is the complex heir of Hedda Gabbler. Most people that go to plays are women, despite the fact that there are so few major female characters or playwrights.
Watching a play we feel directly involved with the actors.
“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” turned the theatrical tropes on their ass. 1962 was the time of the Cuban missile crisis. Nick was named for Nikita Khrushchev. A lot of theatre and literature of that era were meant to smash people out of their complacency.
Professors were supposed to teach morality. Scott said when he was a student he had a professor that invited him to dinner and his Japanese wife sat at his feet the whole time.
George is history and Nick is biology. Nick is going to clone himself and make the world bland. Everything is reduced to biology. History knows that we repeat our mistakes.
When George made Martha think that he was going to kill her it turned her on.
“Flores para los muertos” is an example of the conversation between “A Streetcar Named Desire” and “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”
Fertility is a recurring theme in many of the works we have studied.
A houseboy is also a husband’s servant.
Honey is positively excited by violence. The comedy keeps things from boiling over.
George and Martha entertain one another and exercise their wits. They are not productive. This marked the death of linear theatre.
A child murdering parents is a classical theme. Nick and Honey are children and George and Martha are predators on the hunt and out for bloodlust. There have to be witnesses.
Scott said that universities used to put on this play a lot and it was weird to see students try to play middle-aged characters.
The Bergin boy’s laughter is taken for madness. He is rendered silent by a needle.
George killed his parents and his and Martha’s son.
I mentioned the idea that the son may be symbolic of the American dream.
Albee was adopted and he hated his foster parents. Parents make up what they want their child to be. The play is about how parents and children fail each other and the fantasy of being loved. George and Martha would not have had such a perfect child as the one they imagined.
Divorce rates were lower and so couples that should not have been together remained bound to each other in hatred.
The father tells Martha to “be nice to” Nick and Honey. He pimps her out.
Albee was very well read but he hated universities.
We finished about three quarters of an hour early.
When I got home I made guacamole with garlic and limejuice and had it with plantain chips while watching the Alfred Hitchcock Hour. A hit man named Derry with a moral conscience is hired by a book-making gangster named Harney to kill an employee named Eddie that has started to steal his customers. Eddie’s wife Connie is permanently in a wheelchair due to an accident that resulted from Eddie accidentally knocking her down the stairs. Derry is attracted to and feels sympathy for Connie and is reluctant to kill him because then she will have no one to take care of her. He decides to fake Eddie’s death and have he and Connie move to Mexico. He buys a corpse from the morgue and plants some of Eddie’s personal items, such as his wedding ring on the body, and then he burns it in Eddie’s car. But before Eddie and Connie leave for Mexico, Connie shoots and kills Eddie with a gun that is registered to Derry. She claims that Derry killed her husband and he is arrested for murder.