Friday, August 15, 2008

Play of the Week: August: Osage County

We reported about it when it won the Pulitzer Prize. We reported when it won 5 Tony Awards on Broadway. We reviewed the production when we saw it on Broadway last week. Now it is time to talk about the play August: Osage County itself.

Tracy Letts has given us a new American epic in the tradition of Eugene O’Neill. Three-and-a-half hours long and covering a family that is struggling to hold itself together. It has alcoholism, drug abuse, divorce, incest, and all sorts of other neurosis. This play is not for the faint of heart – the crude dialogue is almost as abusive to the audience as it is to the various family members in the play. The one thing that does hold the whole drama together is laugh-out-loud humor and the characters strength to never cry uncle.

The play begins with the patriarch, Beverly Weston, hiring a young woman to take care of his wife and the housekeeping. We soon learn that he has made these arrangements because he is going off to commit suicide. As the rest of the family arrives to deal with the gaping whole his death has caused, a whole slew of family problems arise that have been ignored for years.

In what can be described as the family reunion from hell, the characters are forced to come out of hiding and defend their private lives in front of the whole family. Skeletons are ripped out of the closet as the mother, Violet Weston, struggles for power and attention through her drug abuse.

There are several times where parts of the action are not fully supported or explained by the context of the play. While this will cause brief confusion from time to time, the play moves on to the next dramatic moment quickly enough, that you are never pulled away from the story. Where we as an audience as supposed to arrive at the end is not completely clear either – each character seems to drift off a little more bitter and a little more damaged than they arrived.

All and all this play is a dramatic tour de force; the likes of which American Drama has not seen in quite a long time. It will undoubtedly keep the company of other stage legends like Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf and Long Day’s Journey into Night.

Happy Birthday: Robert Bolt (1924-1995)
August 17: Don McKellar (b. 1963)

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