Brick, an alcoholic ex-football player, drinks his days away and resists the affections of his wife, Maggie. His reunion with his father, Big Daddy, who is dying of cancer, jogs a host of memories and revelations for both father and son.
The only son of wealthy widow Violet Venable dies while on vacation with his cousin Catherine. What the girl saw was so horrible that she went insane; now Mrs. Venable wants Catherine lobotomized to cover up the truth.
Joseph L. Mankiewicz
George and Martha are a middle aged married couple, whose charged relationship is defined by vitriolic verbal battles, which underlies what seems like an emotional dependence upon each other. This verbal abuse is fueled by an excessive consumption of alcohol. George being an associate History professor in a New Carthage university where Martha's father is the President adds an extra dimension to their relationship. Late one Saturday evening after a faculty mixer, Martha invites Nick and Honey, an ambitious young Biology professor new to the university and his mousy wife, over for a nightcap. As the evening progresses, Nick and Honey, plied with more alcohol, get caught up in George and Martha's games of needing to hurt each other and everyone around them. The ultimate abuse comes in the form of talk of George and Martha's unseen sixteen year old son, whose birthday is the following day.Written by
One only has sympathy for these ultimately dysfunctional characters as they unfold their little "fun and games," like "Down the Host," "Hump the Hostess," and "Get the Guests." If only George and Martha had retired a wee bit earlier none of this would've happened.
Then, too, why didn't Nick and Honey simply leave, rather than stick around for the "full treatment"? Can it be that "like attracts like," so much so that they couldn't leave?
The final denouement suggests that a new day may be in the offing for poor Martha and George, after the latter has "killed off the 'little bugger.' " Although Martha's admittedly still fearful, she clings firmly to George's hand. Perhaps there's some hope, anyway, for this emotionally spent couple.
Edward Albee, taking no small degree of awareness from Tennessee Williams and Harold Pinter, crafted a play that certainly communicated to a goodly number of people.
Personally recalling sitting in its Broadway run, watching Uta Hagen and cast go through their paces, I remember being as impressed with the riotous audience laughter as with the play itself. The raw lines coming from up-to-then very respectable status characters, namely college prof and wife, seemed to provide some kind of early 60s liberation from the staid and repressive 50s.
By the time the film was released in '66, the public was ready for its no-holds-barred dialogue. It ushered in an new era of social upheaval, of which we're still feeling the effects today.
The "boozy battle" between the hosts, hosts and guests, and guests and guests, paralleled the cultural "steam" being released during that politically "hot" period. The American home drastically changed as a nation experienced more domestic squabbles, separations, divorces, custody battles, and family breakdowns--the last including a noted demise of the traditional "family meal."
In Albee's "long night's journey into morning," the audience must endure two hours of fighting, bickering, insulting, and lamenting before any ray of hope is introduced (during its last five minutes). A long time to wait, but there it is: a glimmer that there may be something better ahead. But we're not sure; after all, "Is this fact or fiction, Martha?"
In an extensive GM Quarterly interview, Director Mike Nichols revealed that this was a very troubled production that almost didn't get finished--with a leading cast boozing and pill-dosing even during lunch breaks--stretching the very limits of professionalism.
Yet in the end, Nichols, Cinematographer Haskell Wexler, and Composer Alex North all got what they wanted. A question is, "was it all worth the effort?" That's something only the individual viewer can answer: is this a case of "nothing from nothing leaves nothing?" or "a cathartic and emotionally moving experience?"
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