Dublin Theatre Festival 2018: Everyone's Fine With Virginia Woolf
Kate Scelsa probably suspected “Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” was not going to appeal to everyone. As if in anticipation, Scelsa’s script openly addresses fan fiction from the get-go, ending with a tongue-in-cheek jibe at “Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” being a tedious journey to hell with its audience wondering how much longer. A feminist, deconstructed, post ironic, self aware piece of suburban fiction, sort of, “Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” cuts a feminist swathe through Albee’ classic Who's Afraid Of Virginia Woolf. And that's just for starters. Ibsen, Williams, Miller, Woody Allen, and the Twilight Trilogy, to name but a few, are all firmly in Scelsa’s sights. A theatrical heaven or a derivative hell, depending on your perspective, either way "Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” delivers a killer opening to the third act.
Whether all fiction is fan fiction might be up for debate, but a strong case can be made that “Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” is essentially a work of fan fiction. Not too surprising given Elevator Repair Service’s experimental ethos. As a work that borrows from, or reimagines another in line with a personal preference or agenda, “Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” certainly meets fan fiction criteria. Scelsa’s humorous and often searing interrogation of Edward Albee’s classic sees a gay Professor George, his presumably bi-sexual wife Martha, a young gay professor Nick Sloane, and his straight wife Honey, indulging in endless drinks and wild debate on all things sex and drama in Martha’s house following an academic party. As if location really matters, for its all a fabricated construction. Indeed, Louisa Thompson’s terrific set design, looking as if it was trying hard to create another suburban space seen a million times already before giving up and drawing it on the wall, crashes through the familiar into a meta-theatrical wonderland, the transition being one of the highlights of the production. Energised and frenetic performances from April Matthis as the mildly puzzled Honey, Gavin Price as the hysterically pregnant Nick, Vin Knight as a camper-than-camp George, and a scene stealing Annie McNamara as the relentless, no-nonsense Martha are always engaging. Lindsay Hockaday’s neuroses feeding vampire, coming late to the date, still manages to impress and John Collins ably directs the wild, impassioned energies.
With its spot-the-reference script, “Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” can feel like being smothered in thesis footnotes that only appeal if you like deconstructed ideas firing every which way. Ideologically, “Everyone's Fine With Virginia Woolf” sings firmly to its choir. For those who enjoy such choral music “Everyone's Fine With Virginia Woolf” could well be happy hour in Purgatory. For those who don’t, it could feel like a highway to hell. For everyone else “Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” probably falls somewhere in between.
“Everyone’s Fine With Virginia Woolf” by Kate Scelsa, presented by Elevator Repair Service, runs at The O’Reilly Theatre as part of Dublin Fringe Festival 2018 until Oct 7