August 22, 2007

Who's Afraid of Edward Albee?

I just completed reading Edward Albee's Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, another book version of a somehow "popular" play. The front cover proclaims it as "the most talked-about drama of the last ten years." Most likely on how atrocious it is. It received the New York Drama Critics Circle Award and the Tony Awards as the Best Play of the 1962-63 season. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess it was the only play during that season.

This book features a small bio of Albee, and mentions that he began his writing career with poetry and novels, which he himself thought weren't good. So he decided to turn his sights to big theater productions to torture people. People who apparently didn't know much about what's good. I mean, I did mention all the praise his plays, including Virginia Woolf, received.

A question you've surely wondered upon hearing of this story's title is "who is Virginia Woolf"? Upon reading the book, I can assure you that Virginia Woolf is... nothing. The book title itself is a line in some nonsensical poem the loonies break out singing for no reason at all at certain points in the book. The characters, or maybe just the author himself, belong in an asylum. Now I realize all the characters are supposed to be drunk throughout most of the story, but you can see in the beginning that two of them are screwed up in the head long before alcohol enters their systems. Now that I think about it, if you're the kind of person that enjoys watching your friends getting sloshed out of their minds, you might like this story.

There are only four characters in this book. The entire play takes place at a house on the campus of a New England College. A Streetcar Named Desire was shorter, with more characters, and was wholly more interesting. The premise is something along the lines of what's real and what's fake in the lives of two of the characters that you could only "get" if you dissected the book. With a fine tooth comb. Those last two sentences made more sense than this story's plot. The play-viewing audience didn't have such a luxury to cross examine this story, so rather than seem uneducated and unrefined, they claimed what a masterpiece the spectacle they just saw was to impress the rest of us who didn't get it. Apparently, a movie studio comprised of lunatics themselves thought this play would make a good film, which means it is forever burned onto celluloid to horrify and mislead people into thinking what a "timeless classic" this dreck is.

I know people will end up telling me the "meanings" behind the more confusing aspects of the story. Hidden meanings. You're not supposed to have "insider knowledge" that your audience isn't privy to. That'd be like if I wrote a story about Jose Canseco and Sammy Sosa. See? You don't know what the hell I'm talking about because it's an inside joke shared between me and two others. But that didn't stop me from making an entry in my web comic about it...

Following this book, I sifted through the case containing my father's books from his youth and discovered Romeo and Juliet. But the book is a neutered iteration, meaning it's rewritten to be more comprehensive to a modern (read: modern back when my father was a lad) audience. In addition, it decided to help us out more by inserting explanations throughout the book in case we still couldn't understand. Jeez, if it's that hard for you, invest in the Cliff's Notes version. So I'm abandoning Shakespeare's masterpiece until I can find an unaltered version.

And that's just the way it is.

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