By Tracy Letts
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
Produced by Broadway in Chicago
At the Palace Theatre Chicago
“This is not the Midwest. Michigan is the Midwest, God knows why. This is the Plains: a state of mind, right, some spiritual affliction, like the blues?”
–Barbara Weston from August: Osage County
August: Osage County continues to resonate with the national touring company truthful production
I’m not seen August: Osage Country since August of 2007 on the press opening at Steppenwolf Theatre. But, amazingly, at the opening of the National Tour now at the Palace Theatre through February 14, 2010, it all came back to me—the saga of the Weston family—the quirky characters, the gritty, yet smart dialogue and the rich imagery—it was all there. My fond memories of this great show were reinforced. The three plus hours living with Weston’s was totally engrossing and richly rewarding. Tracy Lett’s deserves all the Jeff, Tony and Pulitzer’s he has received for the first great 21st Century American play!
August: Osage Country has hints of O’Neill’s Long Day’s Journey Into Night with the sharp dialogue style of Edward Albee and the insights into family dynamics reminiscent of Arthur Miller.
Featuring a stellar cast of 13, August: Osage County is the story of the Oklahoma Weston family featuring a boozer patriarch, Beverly (Jon DeVries), his drug addicted wife, Violet (Estelle Parsons), an enabling aunt, Mattie Fae (Libby George), three grown daughters—Barbara (Shannon Cochran), Ivy (Angelica Torn) and Karen (Amy Warren) caught in an exhausting family dynamic fueled by Beverly’s abrupt disappearance just after he hires an American Indian housekeeper, Johnna (DeLanna Studi) to run the household.
As the family reunites to deal with the crises, old wounds are opened and the women battle for understanding as personal guilt and life choices emerge as the fabric of being a Weston under the sorrowful matriarchal influence of Violet the super-strong yet drug addicted head of the Westons. Estelle Parsons is riveting as the mean, sharp-mouthed mother. Shannon Cochran emerges as the new ‘in-charge’ daughter in a masterful performance as the oldest daughter too much like her mother for both to handle. The men in the Weston family are a collection of weak, dotting an accommodating men overshadowed by their women. Paul Vincent O’Connor, Jeff Still, Laurence Lau and Steve Key offered fine support to the work so clearly the realm of the women.
Todd Rosenthal’s tri-level cut away house set with covered windows, books and old dusty furniture aptly depicts an old rural farmhouse and the isolation of Beverly and Violet. This epic work is a three hour plus total emersion into the Weston families struggles to deal with forgetting past problems and painful memories. This complex and truthful epic has biting dialogue, with sharp retorts, vicious attacks as well as poignant and compassionate moments. The problems, contradictions and paradoxes of family dynamics are wonderfully depicted here. Letts covers much ground and he has given all the major characters full dimensional development. We care about these people and we are shocked at the climatic encounters between Violet and Barbara in act three.
The National Tour contains terrific, emotionally based and quite honest performances making it a most complete drama with realistic and humanly flawed characters. This drama reminds us that it is almost impossible to escape from one’s family, especially from a Midwest family. This is a national tour that plays as fine as the original Steppenwolf Theatre production. August: Osage County is as good as theatre gets. If you missed this masterpiece during its Chicago run—hurry—you only have through February 14, 2010 to experience August: Osage County.
At the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Performances are Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday evenings at 7:30 p.m., Friday at 8 p.m., Saturday at 2 and 8 p.m., Sunday at 2 p.m. and on 2/14 at 7:30 p.m. as well. Tickets range from $25-$80 and are well worth it. This is a must see production, one that lasts three hours plus on stage, but in your memory, a lifetime! To purchase tickets visit any of the Broadway in Chicago box offices, call the Broadway in Chicago Ticketline at 800-775-2000, visit any Ticketmaster outlet or online visit www.BroadwayInChicago.com. The Cadillac Palace Theatre is located at 151 West Randolph Street, Chicago, IL.