Viewing … or, turning away: upending the ‘gaze,’ upending the subject

Like in Fornes’ plays, there has, of course, been “unease” before in the theatre, and Edward Albee’s Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? was one of the first plays to really capture that feeling of “unease,” as the airing of one’s private dirty laundry via a spousal quarrel in front of strangers made the audience squirm (and certainly in the 1960s).1 But while one may feel uneasy about watching spouses quarrel in public, one also has trouble not looking away. There is a curiosity factor that keeps one attuned, though the “pressure cooker” is clearly whistling, and one knows when it is time to look away. It is one thing, however, when the audience—or “viewers,” rather—feels ...

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