Verbal assault

Theatre on Consignment is known for its intimate productions of cutting-edge, underperformed plays.

In the final performance of its 2010-11 season, it is aiming for a disturbing, yet powerful telling of a contemporary American favorite. The presentation of Edward Albee's “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” will challenge audiences to explore the subtext of communication and consider the layers of romantic relationships. The play also includes sharp dialogue and surprising plot twists.

The play will be presented this weekend and next in the basement of the First Metropolitan Community Church.

The play was first performed on Broadway in 1962. Its title is an allusion to English novelist Virginia Woolf.

The story is set in the late 1950s and unfolds on a single night, centering on two couples. George and Martha are established figures at a prominent university who have just met the much younger Nick and Honey at a faculty party. Martha invites the naive couple home for a night of fun and games. Cheerful merrymaking isn't exactly what ensues, though.

Rather, the games turn out to be virulent, verbal attacks between George and Martha that discomfort, but oddly entice their houseguests. Throughout the night, uncomfortable facts unfold about all four characters. The corrosive discourse surrounding these machinations unmasks the depths of each character's inner turmoil and exposes their emotional complexities.

"I just love how these two characters beat each other up, yet still love each other," said director Rebekah Rine.

Producer Cherice Henderson agreed.

"This is love through dysfunction. There's a lot of subtext in this play. This is a work that is neither toned down nor muted," she said.

Rine pointed out that Theatre on Consignment doesn't typically do productions of well-known works such as this, preferring to focus more on edgy, lesser known dramatizations. However, she felt there was substance in the plot and themes that merited its inclusion in the theater company's season. She also noted that “Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” has not been performed in Wichita in more than 10 years.

"This is one of those absurdist plays where everyone is talking but no one is saying the truth," Rine said. "At the time of its debut, this play was quite controversial. It's very endemic of the era in which it was written. There was a lot happening, but a lot was not being discussed"

The cast features Wichita theater veterans, many of whom have acted in past Theatre on Consignment plays. Jessica Fisher and Bryan Welsby star as Martha and George, the caustic older couple. Holly Yip and Andrew Fayette play Honey and Nick.

Theatre on Consignment's production stays as close to the original production as possible, complete with the brazen language and sexual subtext that made the play highly controversial when it debuted. "We haven't cut a word," said Henderson. For this reason, the production is recommended for mature audiences only.

If you go


What: Theatre on Consignment's presentation of the Edward Albee play

Where: First Metropolitan Community Church, 156 S. Kansas St.

When: Fri-Sat. and May 26-28 at 8 p.m.

Doors open at 7:30.

How much: Ticket prices are $12 for general public and $10 for seniors, students, and military. For reservations, call 316-941-9436. For more information, visit www.theatreonconsignment.com/