Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Shattered Globe Theatre, at Victory Gardens Theater. Edward Albee’s 1962 drama is a searing study of two alcohol-soaked marriages and the sadomasochistic games husbands and wives play. But it’s also very much a work of its time, when the forced normalcy of postwar America was beginning to unravel but it was still considered a virtue to stay in an abusive relationship, if only “for the kids”–a concept Albee slyly skewers without entirely disapproving of it.

Today, watching Albee’s boozy protagonists, Martha and George, bitch and backbite and scream their way through three hours of stage time is less moving than oppressive, even when they’re played by actors as adept as Linda Reiter and Doug McDade. Reiter in particular has Martha down cold, and there’s something amazing and terrifying about watching her reel around the stage, cutting everyone down one minute and begging for forgiveness the next. But after a while even Reiter begins to lose steam. McDade flags earlier, but then George is not as well written a character as Martha.

Ultimately Lou Contey’s great cast and intelligent direction can’t hide the fact that Albee’s protagonists–like their guests, an uptight cad and his mousy wife–overstay their welcome.