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Edward Albee’s strong and charismatic women are relevant again

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AMERICAN playwrights of the 20th century were a macho bunch. Their stages were full of overbearing fathers, frustrated sons, fast-talking salesmen and broken dreams. The women tended to be decorative—nagging mothers, put-upon wives or melancholic sisters. On a rare occasion when one claimed centre stage, such as Blanche DuBois in Tennessee Williams’s “A Streetcar Named Desire”, she was a tragic figure, too fragile, too hysterical for the brutality of this world. As Williams wrote of Blanche in his stage directions, “There is something about her uncertain manner…that suggests a moth.”

So Martha, the caustic, boozy heroine of “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” was a revelation. Edward Albee’s play, first performed in 1962, depicts an unenviable marriage on an unending night in a quiet college town. “I’m loud, and I’m vulgar, and I wear the pants in the house because somebody’s got to,” Martha says with unrepressed bitterness to her husband George….Continue reading

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