Sunday, March 20, 2011

"Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"

Edward Albee, born March 12, 1928 and adopted by wealthy rightwing Republicans, claims relief to discover he did not belong to such a family. Leftist political views, being gay, and artistic talent sufficed him as a young man to leave his adoptive family and live in poverty. [We might surmise that Albee received little mirroring (Kohut) or approbation as a child.]

Albee later says "All plays, if they're any good, are constructed as correctives. That's the job of the writer. Holding that mirror up to people. We're not merely decorative, pleasant and safe."Perhaps his view might coincide with that of the traditional psychoanalyst who holds up the mirror to the patient as a ‘corrective’ with the self satisfied knowledge that s/he knows exactly what is correct. A more contemporary analyst might allow for more uncertainty and take some responsibility for what is seen.

Albee’s play Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, denied the Pulitzer prize in 1962, [Albee subsequently received Pulitzers for A Delicate Balance, Seascape, and Three Tall Women] is now playing at the American Stage Theatre in St. Petersburg, FL. It is said that Martha’s and George’s [yes, named after the Washingtons; Nick after Nikita Khrushchev] dialogue resembles Albee’s relationship (1952-59) with composer William Flanagan. Like another of his plays [The American Dream (1961)] Virginia Woolf? mocks the American family and dream.

Virginia Woolf? might epitomize what English theatre director Peter Hall said about Albee: "Edward is a very daunting personality. He makes a religion of putting people off. He loves destabilising people" and, when drunk, Albee could be cruel. He once wrote an apology to a host: "By nature, I am a gentle, responsible, useful person, with a few special insights and gifts. With liquor, I am insane."

Liquid courage, it is true, emboldens us to blame others for our flaws [nostalgically called projection]. Neither Martha nor George, nor, I imagine, Albee could, it seems, sustain the felt presence of another in their corner. This chronic failure of recognition and attunement embitters the soul no matter how desperately one clings to maintaining connection to the depriving other.

1 comment:

Sheldon Wykell said...

Albee was adopted when he was two weeks old and learned of his adoption at age 5. He realized his gay orientation at age 8. His entire growing-up experience was that of AN outsider. Reading some of the personal details of Albee's life, through the lens of empathic immersion and the therapeputic dyad, the non-seen, non-exsting son in the play represents the author in relation to his adopted family.