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Up close take on classic play

Local News

Audiences will be up close to the drama in WallByrd Theatre’s production of the Edward Albee classic “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” November 1-18 at the Avyarium Performance Space at Village Gate in Rochester.

Actors Kevin Sweeney, who plays George, and Dawn Sargent, who plays Martha, will take on the roles made famous by Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor in the 1966 film. Sweeney and Sargent discussed their spin on the relationship Tuesday during News 8 at Noon.

“We have wanted to explore a little bit more into why these people are the way they are, what drove them to this place,” said Sargent. “Right now I think a lot of people have those images of Liz and Dick yelling at each other, so we wanted to deconstruct that a little bit and figure out what happened before we see them here in their living room.”

Sweeney added, “It really isn’t a two and half hour play with two people screaming at each other. These two people love each other very much. Under the direction and working with the cast we’ve really been able to find a much more human and acceptable side with a lot of humor. There’s so much humor in this play that I don’t think has ever really been truly fleshed out before. It’s going to be quite a different experience.”

Under the direction of Virginia Monte, audiences will experience it intimately at the Avyarium as well. “This is an incredibly intimate production!” Sargent said with a laugh. “The theatre, the way she has it set up, when people walk in they’re actually looking at George and Martha’s living room and they can see the whole house, and they’re going to be seated on either side of the living room, so it’s a very tennis court style, similar to in the round, but a little different perspective. But they’re going to be incredibly close to the action.”

Sweeney said, “Literally, it’s very, very hard to look at another actor without coming into contact with the audience members, but the same is true for the audience. They’re going to feel like they’re in the living room and it really is a great experience. It allows us to do things much more intimately. We don’t have to do big action. We can be much more natural in that type of performance.”

Sargent said it’s much more like film acting – smaller movements. “We don’t have to project across a big theatre, where there’s a proscenium – you know, we’ve got people way in the back. It’s definitely allowed us to be more in tune with each other.”

To get up close with “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” get your tickets online at or at the door.

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