Thursday, August 14, 2008

Non-Chicago Theatre: Broadway

August: Osage County
The Music Box
Broadway, New York, NY

I don’t know that I have ever had goose bumps in response to a play. I may have had goose bumps in anticipation of a play, but never in response. When Barbara exclaimed “I am in charge now” to end act II, the hair on my arms stood on end and remained like that through the entirety of act III.

It was the fastest three and a half hours in my life. Anna Shapiro’s director is stellar navigating Tracy Letts’ drama at breakneck speed. There are holes in the drama – a few things that feel improvable and not supported by the rest of the action, but the whole effect of the play is such a sweeping spectacle that they are forgiven and we move on.

The performance of Amy Morton dominated the show. Granted Deanna Dunagan and Rondi Reed had already left the production, but this can take nothing away from the stunning work Morton did. From the moment she set foot on the stage to her grand exit, she portrayed the eldest sister Barbara with poise and power. Fighting her failing marriage, Barbara also has to deal with the death of her father and never backs down.

Theatre legend Estelle Parsons took over the role of Violet, the family’s matriarch, from Tony Award winning Dunagan. Parson’s performance was superb. While she didn’t have the dominance of Morton, she was still dominating. This combined with lovely subtle work through her drug abuse made for a thrilling performance as well.

The rest of the actors and Steppenwolf ensemble performed very well. There was not a weak link in the whole show. There were a couple of strange casting choices. The role of Ivy Weston is supposedly 43-year-old. However, Sally Murphy looks a young 35. Her performance was not lacking, but it did take something away from the unity of the show.

All told this production was a masterpiece of American drama. The show has rightly taken Broadway by storm. Originally intended for a 16-week limited engagement, the show is now in its tenth month of an open engagement. Funny, that it takes a trip to New York City for me to see this Chicago phenomenon, but it was well worth seeing no matter where it is playing and I am very happy to have seen it on Broadway.

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