Review: Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf (Red Sandcastle Theatre)

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf plays at Toronto’s Red Sandcastle Theatre

To borrow from a friend, “things go from bad, then they get worse. Then they get worse – again. And then,” he said, drooping his shoulders, “they get even worse.”

Though offering his version of the plot of Long Day’s Journey Into Night, my actor friend might just as easily have been referring to the plot of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf.

Both plays have characters viciously, relentlessly, attacking one another. And both happen to be running in Toronto right now; Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is onstage sporadically from March 22nd until April 2nd at Red Sandcastle Theatre.

Before taking a seat at Red Sandcastle Theatre, one has to cross the performance space which means passing through the modest abode of George and Martha.

George, played by Taran Beaty, is an undistinguished history professor at an undistinguished college. Martha, played by Rosemary Doyle, is the daughter of the college president.

George and Martha are married.

As I heard an audience member comment to his partner at the first intermission – there are two – “they absolutely hate one another.”

I don’t agree.

But the teasing that George and Martha indulge in at the expense of one another, takes some getting used to. It’s a cringe-inducing concoction of cutesy-ness and cruelty. And as deployed in front of a young couple – Nick, played by Adam Crisman, and Honey, played by Jackie English – it’s even more of a theatrical performance.

Perhaps hardest to understand, I think, can be that George, and Martha particularly, do this out of love for one another. Like foreplay almost; an affectionate sport that involves tearing one another down just to build one another up again with backhanded compliments.

Undoubtedly this dynamic can be grating on some. As one audience member told me in the second intermission, all the characters were driving her up the wall.

Personally, I loved it.

Talking to a couple of audience members in the front row after the show, they expressed similar sentiments. I think they were also a bit drunk – the production advertises BYOB, or “Bring Your Own Bottle.” Not to be outdone, the characters onstage go through two bottles of brandy.

Especially in this small storefront venue in Leslieville, formerly a pottery studio, the absurd sort of affection between Martha and George, and the no-holds-barred attacks, make the battles waged between all characters seem more intense.

Despite evident mixed reactions in the audience, I’d strongly recommend seeing one of the remaining performances. I enjoyed myself. And if you have doubts, maybe bring a bottle. But don’t miss it, please.


Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf is playing at Red Sandcastle Theatre (922 Queen Street East) until April 2nd 2012
– There is one remaining show, at 8:00 PM on April 2nd 2012
– Tickets are $20.00; $15.00 for students, seniors, and artists
– Tickets are available at the door, or 416-845-9411. More info at