PlayMakers Repertory Company celebrates the holidays a little differently this year, with something for those who need a night off from family activities and all the “fa-la-la.” The professional theater in residence at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill will present Edward Albee’s hilariously insightful marital slugfest “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Nov. 30-Dec. 18.

It’s been said that love is a battlefield. Meet two of the struggle’s consummate contenders in this knock-down, drag-out love story from the savagely wicked, surgically acute pen of a master American playwright.

“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” won the Tony Award for Best Play (1963), but was considered so scandalous that when the Pulitzer Prize committee chose it to receive its award for drama, the committee then back-tracked and didn’t present an award that year; then several members of the Pulitzer committee resigned in protest.

PlayMakers producing artistic director Joseph Haj says “Virginia Woolf” will “definitely be a change of pace for the holidays. Take the worst family get-together you can imagine, add a fifth of scotch, and chase it with some of the best one-liners in American theater for a truly unforgettable experience.” 

Longtime PlayMakers company members Ray Dooley and Julie Fishell, seen last season as another less-than-functional theatrical couple in PlayMakers’ production of “Happy Days,” will play George and Martha. Join them for an alcohol-soaked evening of mercilessly witty fun and games and one dazzlingly nasty fight to the finish.

The New York Times said “Virginia Woolf” has “abundant alarming humor that finds the gut-wrenching factor in belly laughs.” Variety called the play “entirely engrossing … relentlessly intense.”

Wendy C. Goldberg directs the PlayMakers production. Ms. Goldberg is currently in her eighth season as artistic director of the National Playwrights Conference at the Eugene O’Neill Theater Center, which received the 2010 Tony Award for Outstanding Regional Theater while under her leadership. Before that she was artistic associate at Arena Stage in Washington, DC. Goldberg also served as creative advisor for the Tony nominated Broadway hit “Rock of Ages.”

All performances  of “Virginia Woolf” will be in the Paul Green Theatre in UNC’s Center for Dramatic Art on Country Club Road. Show times will be 7:30 p.m. nightly,  Tuesdays through Saturdays, 2 p.m. on Dec. 10 and 2 p.m. Sundays. For a schedule, information and tickets, call (919) 962-PLAY (7529) or visit www.playmakersrep.org. Tickets are $10 to $45.

On Nov. 22 at 6:30 p.m., PlayMakers will host a behind-the-scenes preview of the play, “The Vision Series: Directors in Conversation” with Goldberg. Theater-goers and others interested in the creative process are invited to the Paul Green Theatre to share refreshments, along with a sneak peek at the set and upcoming production.

“The Vision Series” is free and open to the public. Reservations are appreciated, but not required, to attend. Call PlayMakers at 919.962.7529 to RSVP.

Other special events during “Virginia Woolf” will include:

  • Nov. 21, 6 p.m.: a discussion with the director and cast at McIntyre’s Books, Fearrington Village, Pittsboro;
  • Nov. 30, Dec. 1 and 2, 7:30 p.m.: preview performances;
  • Dec. 3, 7:30 p.m.: the opening night performance on with a complimentary gala party afterward;
  • Dec. 5, 7 p.m.: “In the Wings,” presented by PlayMakers and the Durham County Library. Cast and creative team members (designers, actors and production personnel) discuss the play at the Main Library, 300 N. Roxboro St., downtown Durham;
  • Dec. 7 and 11: free post-show discussions with the creative team;
  • Dec. 7-10 and Dec. 14-17: a ‘holiday night out’ dining package at The Carolina Inn paired with the evening performance of the show at PlayMakers. Reservations may be made online at 12daysevents.com or by calling (919) 918-2715. Tickets are $75 per person.
  • Dec. 17 and 18: free post-show “Mindplay” discussions sponsored by the North Carolina Psychoanalytic Society; and
  • Dec. 13: an all-access performance for attendees with special needs, with sign language interpretation and audio description.

In the New Year, PlayMakers’ season continues with Nilaja Sun’s “No Child…” in the PRC2 second stage series (Jan. 11-15), followed by Shakespearean coming-of-age epic “The Making of a King: Henry IV & Henry V” (performed in rotating repertory Jan. 28-March 4). The Mainstage Season finale will be the uproarious British comedy “Noises Off” by Michael Frayn (April 4-22) and the second stage closes with the world premiere of “Penelope,” written and performed by Ellen McLaughlin, with live music composed by Sarah Kirkland Snider (April 25-29). Season subscriptions packages are available.

Dos Perros Restaurant is co-producing sponsor for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?”

PlayMakers is based in UNC’s College of Arts and Sciences. The Drama League has named PlayMakers one of the “best regional theatre companies in America.”

Coverage note: Media are welcome to cover “The Vision Series” preview and director’s talk on Nov. 22 at 6:30 p.m. Photography, videography, lights and flashes are not restricted. For assistance, call (919) 962-5359.

PlayMakers contact: Connie Mahan, (919) 962-5359, cmahan@email.unc.edu