The Set of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

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The Set of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?

For a play as drastically depressing and oppressive as Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, the set needs to augment the mood as much as possible. Albee’s play calls for several props, and all of these have to be provided, but more than that, the set needs to look as real as possible, to show that these people are not vastly different from the rest of us. And because in that fact the true horror of the play resides the set is all-important. Luckily, the performance featured a realistic, intricate, close set.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is set in an ordinary 1950s New England suburban house. Nothing is overly expensive or glamorous. But in plays, designers typically want things to catch the eye, even though in this instance such would ruin the mood. The set designers captured this mood perfectly. Nothing is anachronistic. The set even lacks a coherent color scheme; but why would there be? In most houses, walls are painted and papered, carpet is put down, but, twenty years later, these same walls are decorated with paintings and the floors are covered with rugs and furniture that would not have even been considered in the inception. The set of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? shows this hodgepodge perfectly. Above the set, the eaves of the house, and the roof of another house are clearly seen, providing, again, a voyeuristic view of the play’s events. Such realism creates a believable mood for the play, heightening the effect that these things are actually happening (heightened still more with Albee’s back-and-forth style of dialog), leaving the viewer acting as a voyeur, but also identifying closely with the characters.

The realism in the set design is even more ...

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...h a crowded area (set close to the edge of the stage for an even greater close appearance), and seeing them not bump into one another is uncomfortable to watch, simply because of the slight inherent feeling of wrongness, rather than a good-natured and cozy feeling, that is supported by the caustic dialogue.

The set of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? is perfectly designed for the play. The realism and intricacy of the scenery and props attempt to raise the fourth wall as much as possible, heightening the reality of the performance, while the claustrophobic closeness of everything tears the wall down in tiny shreds, giving a feel of unease to the play. In any modern play, unlike Shakespeare’s plays, there is a struggle to present the play in the accurate time, and the set designers of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? have done this flawlessly and accurately.
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