Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? is most famous for Elizabeth Taylor’s and Richard Burton’s performances but Sandy Dennis does not need to hide herself between these two giants as she, too, gave a performance that certainly lives up the high reputation of this classic drama. She does not steal the movie but there was also no need for that since all four actors contribute enormously to its success but she played her part probably as good as humanly possible – and with a part like this, this is a splendid achievement.
Sandy Dennis’s Honey is certainly one of the most neurotic creations this category has ever seen – considering that Sandy Dennis was an expert in playing these types of woman, this should not be surprising but thankfully this all worked for Honey. The way Sandy Dennis delivers her lines, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, swallowing words, laughing awkwardly or crying helplessly – it all comes together gloriously.
Sandy Dennis perfectly fit her performance to the style of Who’s afraid of Virginia Woolf? – it’s a dark drama, a satire, sometimes even a comedy and Sandy Dennis is a strong reason for that: she can break your heart when she finds out that her husband told George something very personal and screams ‘You couldn’t have told him’ but she can also make you laugh hysterically when she shouts ‘Hump the hostess!’, ‘Violence! Violence!’ or tells Martha ‘He’s not a floozy, he can’t be a floozy, you’re a floozy’.
But Sandy Dennis also fills her performance with so many wonderful moments: right at the beginning, when Liz yells ‘God damn you!’ And she’s also magnificent when she is listening to George’s and Nick’s conversation on the stairs. Later, in the scene in the bar, she delivers a real tour de force, dancing like a crazy woman, then suddenly turning angry and yelling at her husband ‘Stop that! You are always at me when I’m having a good time!’ Honey may be the result of Sandy Dennis’s own acting style and personality but when actress and character fit together so perfectly and the actress has the necessary talents to make it all real – then we have a winner!
It’s essentially a very observing performance – Sandy Dennis mostly remains part of the ensemble and only has some few moments to step in the foreground but despite this she completely disappears in the character and gives one of the all-time great performances.