George Segal received his only Oscar nomination so far for portraying Nick in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?.
Nick is a new professor of the college where George has long been, and Martha is the daughter of the president of the University. He and his wife visit Martha and George after a faculty party for a night of drinking and some terrible games. In these early scenes, particularly when he first walks in, Segal shows what would probably be the reaction of any normal person witnessing Martha and George first hand. He perfectly conveys the very awkward feelings Nick has over the entire situation. He has the whole embarrassment, discomfort as one would expect, but as well an attempt to pleasant and outgoing with his college, and the daughter of his new boss.
Segal shows that Nick is in just one unpleasant situation from beginning to end and really does not know exactly how to respond to Martha and George. Early on Segal has Nick desperately trying to be a pleasant guest joking at Martha's jokes at George's expense as well as trying to be friendly at the same time with George as they have a "pleasant" conversation with one another. Segal never tries to upstage Burton as George, nor should he since Nick is really in way over his head with the man. Instead Segal portrays a entirely realistic portrait of a man dealing with an intellectual lunatic. Segal in his own way does match Burton's performance not by trying to be his equal but instead properly keep Nick as the rather confused man he should be.
His and Burton's scenes together are quite effective because Segal shows Nick really trying to have some sort of friendship or camaraderie with this man by telling about his personal story particularly about he and his wife. Segal shows Nick trying desperately to be casual with George, and the two do have a particular dynamic that works well. Segal always acts the fool in a completely realistic fashion, and not by showing that Nick is dumb, but that he simply is not George. He honestly shows a man just trying to be friendly never even suspecting the fact that the man he is talking to is only measuring and looking for weaknesses in him to exploit later if needed.
Another pivotal aspect of his performance though in his depiction of Nick's relationship with his wife. He and Dennis really do not have a great chemistry so to speak, it is not obvious that they should be together, instead the two actors show that it is obvious that they are have been forced to be together. There actually interactions are always short and always take a backseat to Martha and George but the two actors do realize Nick, and Honey's troubled history incredibly well. Segal does show that Nick does have affection for his wife, but there is always a constant frustrations within his portrayal. Segal shows that these frustrations perfectly represent the pains Nick feels over the lack of a strong basis for their marriage. Segal never overplays the trouble in the marriage instead, again, realistically presents an undercurrent of regret in Nick over his imperfect marriage.
Segal actually is quite good throughout the film as Nick is slowly worn down by night with Martha and George, and by drink. Segal is effective in portraying Nick drunkenness. He really is perfect actually because he honestly portrays through the night the way the drink wears down on Nick. He never for a moment overplays this instead going all the way through showing a man becoming sick by drink. Segal is always excellent in showing Nick's frustrations with the night as he recognizes he is basically being used by Martha and George. He again acts a beacon of reality in the film emphasizes the complete distress of learning the truth of the two as well as having had to be used by both of them as well. At the end of the film Nick is his own sort of mess that Segal realizes. Nick is over his head the entire film, and it has its very own effect on his that ends well in depression and frustration. This is strong work by George Segal, Nick is the least flashy part, but Segal still makes his own memorable impression in the film, by being the only person who seems to keep his head on his shoulders, and even he comes close to losing it. It is his down the line realistic performance that absolutely has the right dynamic within the group and really makes the film work.