Mercury Players delve into marriage strife

Get an inside look at a troubled marriage heading off the rails and resentments bubbling to the surface

George (Marinus Vesseur) loses his cool and begins choking his wife Martha (Jennifer Lally) as younger couple Nick (Brandon Newell) and Honey (Lauren Cooper) look on in horror and enjoyment, respectively.

Get an inside look at a troubled marriage heading off the rails and resentments bubbling to the surface, as the Mercury Players present Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

The dramatic play tells the story of a middle-aged couple who end up entangling a younger couple in their marital strife after a social get together.

“It really comes up as a tragicomedy. You have to say it’s a drama, there are lots of situations that bring up deep emotions. So it’s an exploration of the emotional range of humans and it’s a picture of the marriage of George and Martha,” explained director Jim Cleough, who’s directed a number of Mercury Players’ productions including On Golden Pond and The Boys Next Door.

The play, written by Edward Albee in 1962 examines themes of love and codependency, as well as the lies people tell themselves and others to get through the day. Its themes are contemporary as can be (and profanity was recently updated throughout the play by Albee, to keep on the cutting edge of cursing) ranging from balancing life with ambition, staying relevant as a younger generation comes up to take your place and being in relationships with deep problems that are still not easy to exit.

“They’re so awful that they’re perfect for each other,” explained Jennifer Lally, who plays Martha.

The play takes place following a mixer party for new professors at an upscale New England college. Martha, daughter of the college president, fell in love with George while seeking an ambitious social climber to eventually take over the university.

“She could be queen of the universe,” explained Lally, adding that it’s been a pleasure to work with the other actors Marinus Vesseur (George), Brandon Newell (Nick) and Lauren Cooper (Honey).

As her ambitions played out, George flopped.

“Over time it became obvious that George wasn’t that guy,” Cleough explained. “So she has been looking ever since for someone more suited. We don’t know that she would ever throw George over, but she’s looking.”

Socializing with younger couple Nick and Honey leads down some unexpected paths and causes tensions to boil to the surface, with the younger couple’s problems playing out against the backdrop of their new tenured friends. George sees Nick as a threat to his academic position, and Honey tries to seduce George.

Cleough said the play has been a great experience.

“It’s been exciting,” Cleough said. “Just trying to encourage the dynamics, the levels of emotional experience.”

Comedic situations occur despite the dark subject matter.

“I think with any drama you have to have a bit of a break so people’s minds don’t go ahhhh. I think they write them in there for that,” said Lally.

“Being intellectuals they play intellectual games,” Cleough added.

The play runs around three hours, with two intermissions.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? opens at 7:30 p.m. on March 30 at the Mercury Theatre. It runs March 31 to April 2, with a matinee show at 2 p.m. on April 3 and shows April 14 to 16.

The Mercury Players caution that the play contains mature themes and profanity.

Tickets to the show are available at Ten Old Books at 330 Duncan St. in Duncan, First Chiropractic Clinic at 5777 Trans-Canada Hwy. in Duncan, by calling 250-732-1923, from cast members, or by e-mailing

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? will be the Mercury Players’ third production of the year, following Nunsense and Power Plays, with Steel Magnolias coming up in May.

To find out more about the Mercury Players visit

Cowichan Valley Citizen

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