August: Osage County
HUMAN RACE THEATRE COMPANY & WRIGHT STATE UNIVERSITY
September 23 – October 10, 2010
Warning: This play contains strong language, alcohol abuse, stronger language, legal drug abuse, really strong language, illegal drug abuse, sibling rivalry, verbal abuse, latent pedophilia, patent nastiness, strong psychological tension, sordid dramatic subplots, and enough laughs to cause possible severe injury to persons inclined toward knee-slapping.
Well! Considering that disclaimer, it’s not surprising that August: Osage County has been talked about so much lately. Besides being provocative but scathingly funny, August has also received numerous awards, and this performance marks the first collaboration between the Human Race Theatre Company and Wright State University as well as the show’s regional premiere.
August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts, explores the story of three generations of the Weston family of Oklahoma, who unexpectedly reunite after the disappearance of the family patriarch. Repressed and unsettled secrets are revealed in this searchingly powerful portrait of the dysfunctional American family at its finest – and absolute worst.
The show enjoyed a highly successful Broadway run, winning five Tonys, the Pulitzer, and Time Magazine’s “Play of the Year” designation. The HRTC/WSU production is making national news, as well: this is the first staging (throughout the entire United States) of August: Osage County since it left Broadway.
Just as the script is a perfect combination of pain and pathos, this production is a smooth blend of the professional and collegiate. The cast of 13 includes seven professionals (including two who understudied August’s Broadway production) and six WSU students, with technical responsibilities also shared evenly. This, the first such collaboration, has been a successful experience for both sides: HRTC Resident Artist and August co-director (with HRTC Artistic Director, Marsha Hanna) Scott Stoney observed,
“Relationships are starting to happen. I think the students are impressed with the professionals, and the professionals appreciate the students’ enthusiasm and talent.”
Playwright Tracy Letts, originally from Oklahoma and since 2002 a resident at Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theatre Company, is only too familiar with the hardship and family dysfunction prevalent in August. New York Times writer Patrick Healy described,
“A recovering alcoholic and former pack-a-day smoker who could have majored in profanity had he not dropped out of college, [Letts] has a well-earned dark side that mixes with a surprising sweetness and exuberant humor.”
His family members strongly influenced his writing: the character of Violet, the drug-addicted and abusive matriarch of the Weston family, is distinctly modeled after Letts’ own grandmother (listen for the line in the play about Violet’s method of stealing pills; her tactic Letts directly observed in his grandmother. Toss that bit of trivia out to your date during intermission and enjoy looking impressive).
In its explosive combination of pain and pathos, this is definitely not a production for the faint-at-heart: besides everything in the disclaimer above, its running time is 3 ½ hours (with two intermissions). But during that time, August: Osage County will grab hold of you, if it hasn’t already, and refuse to let go.
Tickets and showtimes: http://humanracetheatre.org/1011aoc.shtml
*all photos courtesy of Scott Kimmins
Katherine Nelson is a senior theatre major at Cedarville University who focuses on performance, playwriting, and stage management. She’s the Literary Intern with locally based Encore Theater Company, where contributors Shane Anderson and David Brush also work. ETC recently moved into the new arts collective space in the Oregon District, along with Zoot Theatre Co. & Rhythm in Shoes. Anderson, Brush & ETC just concluded their summer season of new musicals in downtown Dayton, which featured Johnathan Larson’s RENT, [title of show] & the new musical in development Next Thing You Know.