Smokehouse Players take on iconic Edward Albee script

Smokehouse Players take on iconic Edward Albee script

“Who wouldn’t jump at the chance to work on a masterpiece by Edward Albee, one of America’s greatest playwrights?”

That’s how Terry Vaughan, co-founder of Smokehouse Players with her husband, Tim Gilster, starts a discussion of their upcoming show, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” First published and produced in 1962, it’s considered a “dark comedy” in which two couples — George and Martha, who are older, and Nick and Honey, who are younger — engage in “a long night of malicious games, insults, humiliations, betrayals, painful confrontations, and savage witticisms” after a university faculty party. Martha and George are played by Vaughan and Gilster, Bryan Guarino plays Nick, and Juliette Robinson is Honey.

Critic Toby Zinman writes of the play: “The plot stands as one of the great theatrical treatments of the dysfunctional family, a subject American drama has been in love with from the beginning; this is not the drippy prime-time variety of television’s version of ‘family drama’ … but rather the obsessive reexamination of how families love and hate each other, the domestic battlefield where truth and illusion are locked in mortal combat.”

“I know every actor secretly dreams of getting the opportunity to dig into one of the four juicy characters in this play,” Vaughan goes on. “And if there are theater lovers out there who have not gotten the opportunity to see a live production of ‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?,’ they are missing out on an unforgettable theatrical experience. The play is hilarious and heartbreaking, scorching and exhilarating. … It is clear that this play is a love story — a twisted love story — but a love story nonetheless.”

The play is, for modern audiences, almost Shakespearean in length — three acts, certainly running more than two hours. That kind of production, says Vaughan, takes “brass balls, huge open hearts, and 100 percent commitment from all involved. Smokehouse Players ‘ain’t afraid of nothing,’ and we refuse to underestimate our audience!

“Worthwhile theater comes in many shapes and sizes. If you start with a brilliant script and put in the work that is required before, during, and after rehearsals, it doesn’t matter if the show is one act or three acts. The audience will take the journey with you…”

Vaughan says what audiences don’t need to worry about is coming into the play with their homework in hand.

“If you are a human, you will appreciate this story. If you have ever gotten yourself caught in an emotional trap that you had to fight like hell to get out of, you will appreciate this story. If you have ever held secrets that could potentially destroy the relationships you hold dearest, you will appreciate this story. If you have ever let the disappointments life throws your way twist your feelings of love into something dark and corrupt, you will appreciate this story. If you have ever had to fight for the love you deserve, you will appreciate this story.

“The play is as relevant today as it was when it was written 1962,” she concludes.

Here, the play’s four actors answer some quick questions for What’s Up!

Q. Why did you want to do this show?

Vaughan: I feel it is the role of a lifetime.

Gilster: I really want our audience to have the chance to see this powerful show.

Guarino: It was such a big learning opportunity as an actor.

Robinson: It’s a labyrinth! What actor wouldn’t want to pick their way through that kind of genius?

Q. What have been the biggest challenges?

Robinson: The biggest challenge was coming to terms with my character’s perspectives. Honey’s experiences as a woman in the early ’60s shape her in ways that were initially hard to understand…

Guarino: Learning to be vulnerable enough to truly express myself in this character. It’s not easy to show so many big emotions, and they are all over the place in this play.

Gilster: The obvious challenge is the number of lines…

Q. Tell me about your character?

Vaughan: I love Martha. She is extremely flawed, which is delicious red meat for an actor to chew on. She is hard and cruel on the outside, but deep inside she is just a vulnerable child looking for her father’s approval and her husband’s love.

Gilster: I love George! He is a hero to me. He is the ultimate underdog that everyone underestimates. He has great dignity, and he loves Martha with a dedication I admire. He is the funniest character I have ever had the honor of portraying.

Guarino: Nick is an a**hole. But, he’s got a couple of redeeming qualities, albeit small ones. Nick has never met a challenge he couldn’t conquer or a prize he can’t claim. Therefore, he has no respect for his prior accomplishments or his relationships. That lack of respect is very prevalent throughout the play. However, he can’t stand by and watch a man hurt a woman, emotionally or physically. But only because women are too weak to handle it, in his opinion.

Robinson: I love Honey! She is empathetic and concerned with loving people well. She loves to laugh and has a vibrant world of joy under her skin (if only Nick cared to look). All Honey wants is to be wanted and free from hurt. I wish I could jump into the pages of the play and give Honey a big hug.

Q. What is the moral of the story you hope audiences take away with them?

Robinson: The question for the audience is, what are you afraid of?

Guarino: The moral of the story is that we can’t hide from reality.

Gilster: The play shows how embracing illusion can be destructive in relationships.

Vaughan: Marriages can be hard to understand, but if the love between two people is real and they want it to survive, they must fight tooth and nail for it — no matter how messy that fight gets.



Smokehouse Players:

‘Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?’

WHEN — 7:30 p.m. Nov. 111-12

WHERE — Ozark Mountain Smokehouse, 1725 S. Smokehouse Trail in Fayetteville

COST — Free; donations accepted


FYI — No reservations; first come, first serve

Categories: Cover Story