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August: Osage County

a Drama
by Tracy Letts

COMPANY : Lionheart Theatre Company [WEBSITE]
VENUE : College Street Playhouse
ID# 5129

SHOWING : September 15, 2017 - October 01, 2017



A vanished father. A pill-popping mother. Three sisters harboring shady little secrets. When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunites after Dad disappears, their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. Mix in Violet, the drugged-up, scathingly acidic matriarch, and you’ve got a major new play that unflinchingly—and uproariously—exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family.

Director Myrna Feldman
Set design/props Tanya Moore
Set design/props Tanya Moore
Ivy Katie Bates
Beverly Allan Dodson
Charlie Brian Jones
Jean Grace Jones
Violet Rebecca Knoff
Steve Jeff LeCraw
Karen Emily McClain
Johnna Cristina Simms
Bill Fordham Bob Smith
Maddie Fae Amy Szymanski
Click to Submit Cast & Crew Info for this production


Taking the "Fun" out of "Dysfunctional"
by playgoer
Tuesday, September 19, 2017
Director Myrna Feldman’s director’s notes in the program for Lionheart’s "August: Osage County" state that the dysfunctional family dynamics in view are "infinitely relatable." I take issue with that statement. To some people, they are relatable. Take in evidence the man in tears after the first act of this three-act play. Things obviously were resonating for him. Not for me, though. The people we see tend to the grotesque and monstrous, so it’s not surprising that the three sisters of Tracy Letts’ Weston family are eager to complete their escape from Osage County, unlike Chekhov’s three sisters who yearn for an idealized Moscow they’ll never see. About the only relatability I experienced was in the assumption of somewhat clueless sister Karen (Emily McClain) that her parents loved all three girls equally. With the scarcity of love in evidence in the Weston clan, that may not be far from the unpleasant truth.

Tanya Moore’s set reuses the basic bones of the design that has been used for the past several Lionheart productions: we have the same staircase, two of the same doorways, and even what appears to be the chafing dish recently used in "Clybourne Park." The only structural changes are stage left, where we have an angled wall containing a window and the suggestion of a porch. It all works very well, though. The set has been decorated to suggest different portions of the house, and air mattresses brought downstage work just fine for bedroom scenes. Gary White’s lighting design helps delineate different acting spaces, and Bob Peterson’s sound design meshes seamlessly into the action.

Myrna Feldman has blocked the action so that sightlines are uniformly good. The second act takes place around a dining table seating nine people (with two others at the children’s table), so there are inevitably some backs to some sections of the audience, but there is enough spacing between backs to allow viewing of plenty of faces. Scene changes flow smoothly, and there’s enough variety of movement to maintain visual interest. Fine costumes, assembled by the cast, add to the visual appeal.

Ms. Feldman has gotten the most out of her cast. Performances have been molded to mesh believably, allowing the unsavory plot to unfold before us in all its horrifyingly destructive dysfunction. For the actors I’ve seen before, their performances in this production rate among their best. That’s one of the hallmarks of superior direction. Rebecca Knoff does a splendid job with Violet’s slurred, almost indecipherable (except to her) utterings, and Brian Jones’s impassioned speech as Charlie hits home with all its intended force. Even newcomers make a good impression. Grace Jones, in her Lionheart debut, makes teenager Jean a totally natural, believable person.

Otherwise, casting is a little off in terms of ages. Outside of the prologue, the men seem to be about the ages referenced in the script, but the supposedly middle-aged women appear far younger. That gives a slightly "off" feeling to the proceedings. There are also some other "off" elements: the facts that Katie Bates’ Ivy seems to have downcast eyes consistently when facing the audience and that the four-letter filth issuing forth from Barbara’s mouth doesn’t sound altogether natural in Sarah Tracy’s speech patterns. (Blame Tracy Letts for that; not the expressive Ms. Tracy.)

The play doesn’t start altogether well, with Allan Dodson’s turn as Beverly not the boozy tour-de-force it needs to be. Christina Simms’ nearly silent Johnna shares the prologue, bringing quiet dignity to the role and adding subtle movement to underline certain moments. After the prologue, things start sparking along, with Amy Szymanski’s Maddie Fae bursting onto the scene with unbridled energy and venom. The laughs come frequently in the early sections of the play, with the tone darkening and souring as the action proceeds. These aren’t people we’d like to encounter in real life, but they can be tolerated for three hours. And most people, I daresay, will embrace the production rather than merely tolerate it. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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