By Scott Brown
March 28, 2005 at 05:00 AM EST

Forty-three years after its premiere, Woolf still has all of its giddy, vicious thrill. Edward Albee’s apocalyptic living-room purgatorio (even lacking the profane countercultural wallop it originally packed) remains one of the most dazzling displays of verbal blood sport ever to stain the American stage. Middle-aged marrieds George (Bill Irwin) and Martha (Kathleen Turner) are beyond tropes, beyond types: They’re gods — the old warring, fornicating, sacrifice-demanding kind — barely concealed within shabby shells of college-town tweed. When these ancients invite a Young Turk faculty stud (David Harbour) and his wisp of a wife (Mireille Enos) into their gladiatorial arena, the fur flies, badinage sings, and truth stings. The performances are so good, they’re inseparable, a shrieking string quartet of cataclysmically colliding lives. And despite its age, Woolf still spryly violates our ultimate taboo: It glories in the ruins of empire.

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