Stage Company host Edward Albee classic

Putting on a well-known play can be stressful for any theater company. For director Vincent Rhomberg and The Stage Company, “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” was daunting.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” which was made into a well-known film of the same name, is about an eldery couple with marital problems, spending a night with a younger couple to see if their marriage is still worth fighting for.

Rhomberg, the director of marketing for SIU’s theater department, has directed more than 200 productions for off-Broadway, regional and summer stock theaters. This is his fifth directional assignment for the Stage Company. The Varsity Center for Arts and WSIU-FM is also involved with the Tony Award-winning Edward Albee play.

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Every directorial job was a different experience that influenced his style, he said. But summer stock in particular was a demanding lesson that helped him immensely. It was a fast pace approach he will never forget, Rhomberg said.

“One week after another you were pumping out these shows. That’s a real challenge,” he said. “You have to be prepared. There’s no time to develop anything in rehearsal.”

Even after so much practice as a director, a play like “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf” still fazes him, Rhomberg said. The entire show is about three hours long and has a lot of major themes that must be addressed well.

There is the myth of the American dream, a power struggle happening in families and the struggle of relationships, he said. He added there is a lot of ambiguity and complexity to this play — it is not a easy to follow narrative. 

 “The density of the characters, the things they talk about,” he said. “Those are more complicated.”

Jim Lambert, a retiree from Carbondale, is one of two assistant directors on “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf,” and has an assisted Rhomberg on four other plays.

Going through the script and arguing with the main director are just some of the activities the assistant director does, Lambert said. With this being such a huge play, different perspectives need to be involved.

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“Four eyes are better than two,” Lambert said. “And we actually have six on this one.”

With so many people familiar with the play, it was difficult being different, he said. The movie is so iconic that people have that film distinctly in their mind. The performances of legends like Elizabeth Taylor and George Segal weigh on the actors in any production of the play, Lambert said.

He said the pressure of those who came before are not the only trouble the actors have to go through. In this play, various characters have to be on stage almost the entire time. For actors who have worked in big ensemble casts, this can be challenging.

“If you are in a play, an actor has maybe half an act where he is sitting in the green room,” Lambert said. “In this play people leave, but they come back in like a minute.”

Sarah Dubach, a graduate student in Linguistics from Carbondale, plays Honey, the wife of the younger couple. Her husband is Nick, played by Dan Hill.

Dubach has been acting since she was young and has been in other Stage Company plays, including “Doubt.” Her character of Honey in “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf” is an individual transplanted from the Midwest to Ivy League area of the East, she said.

Honey is the type of character who is always trying to talk herself out of situations

“Honey is a preacher’s daughter and comes from a little bit of money,” Dubach said. “She likes to control her environment by imagining certain situations don’t exist.”

 A lot of her preparation for the play was about analysis and breaking scenes down into beats, she said. To play any character, one has to know the inside and outs of the script.

Playwrights hide a lot of character motivation in the lines of characters, Dubach said.

“You can find out a lot about your characters from what other characters say about your character,” she said.

The Stage Company and Varsity Center for Arts are presenting the Tony Award-winning Edward Albee play from Friday to Sunday and Feb. 19 to 21. The shows will take place at 7:30 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. on Sundays.

Tickets are $15 for adults and $8 for Students. The show contains mature content and there will be two intermissions for each show.

Jacob Pierce can be reached at [email protected] or 618-536-3325

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