BWW Review: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY: Powerful Pulitzer Play at A Public Fit Theatre
Taking place in the gorgeously renovated "The Usual Place Theatre"
(new seats, amenities and intimate adjoining bar) is yet another powerful and poignant production by A PUBLIC FIT Theatre Company. This time its Pulitzer prize winning "August: Osage County" by Tracy Letts, running through November 19 with convenient 7:30 pm showtimes.
"Osage" is the French version of a Plains tribe's name, which can be roughly translated as "warlike." The Osage refer to themselves as Wazhazhe or "Mid-waters" referring to the river area of their ancestral lands.
The play takes its name directly from a poem by Howard Starks, a mentor and friend of Letts. Of this, Tracy stated, "I could never come up with a title as brilliant as Starks' title."
In Starks' poem we get the desolate, humid, airless flat feel of the region, including Pawhuska, Oklahoma where this play takes place.
Nearly every time one of the 13 characters speak, you find yourself agreeing with what they're saying, even with their onager-catapulting neuroses and epicaricacy. Tracy Letts said in an NPR interview, "every family is a bit like the Westons of Osage County, Oklahoma..."
In the modern canon of portraying dysfunctional families, such as by Sam Shephard or Eugene O'Neill, we have relative newcomer and Tony winner Tracy Letts writing semi-autobiographically.
Character Beverly Weston is a "man of letters," (as were Letts' parents) a poet and disaffected intellectual who is no longer charmed by his materially laden American Dream, as he explains to Johnna as he gives her a book of T. S. Eliot poems, during her interview shortly before he leaves.
When Mr. Weston goes missing family members arrive to help search and ponder their predicaments.
His wife, Violet Weston is ready to unleash psychological havoc on all. Her coups de tête are hurled with precision, primed by opioids and anti-depressants. This drama queen gleefully bullies and guilts her three daughters and all the men into leaving her alone in the sole care of the caring, stoic, Cheyenne live-in girl that Beverly hired as his last attempt to care for her.
Housekeeper Johnna Monevata hears and sees all, but reacts only with her diary writing pen, page turning her T. S. Eliot book and steady disconnected distant gaze. She proves to be a silent observer and savior of sorts for this psychologically damaged lot.
She just needed a job!
Each and every actor in this professional ensemble brings their character to the brink, without losing pace. Every element contributes perfectly to this tour de force.
Although filled with alcoholism, drug-addiction, suicide, infidelity, momentary child-molestation, and accidental incest, there is humor, truth and vulnerability for us to enjoy.
According to Letts.net, "this Shakespearean-length tragicomedy's numerous references to poets and poetry are more than mere intertextual references challenging a "master narrative" or criticizing liberal humanism.
Rather, in August: Osage County the allusions and references to poets and their poetry, including framing the play with quotes from Eliot's "The Hollow Men," point to the diminishment or dismissal of the intrinsic value of poetry in the lives of the Westons - the allegorical representation of Western ideology's "master narrative."
(Kochman on Letts Net).
T. S. Eliot's, "The Hollow Men"
theme of despair dominates "August: Osage County" and the play ends with Eliot's line, "this is how the world ends..."
Not said from that poem is the ending of that line,
"...not with a bang, but a whimper."
Opening night was sold out.
"August: Osage County" runs through November 19, 2019
evenings at 7:30 pm
matinees at 2 pm.
A Steady Rain, Sense and Sensibility.
Cry It Out, The Children,
Last Night and the Night Before
and many community engagement events and talk-backs called The Buzzz.
A Public Fit Theatre Company
The Usual Place Theatre
100 S. Maryland Parkway
Las Vegas, NV 89101
Tickets, dates, space rental, more.
"August: Osage County"
Director, Ann-Marie Pereth
Scenic Design by Erik A. Koger
Lighting by Ellen Bone
Dialect Coach by Brandon Burk
Costumes by Hailey Eakle
Sound by Tim Sage
Cast of "August: Osage County"
Beverly Weston by Gary Lunn
Violet Weston by Valerie Carpenter Bernstein
Barbara Fordham by Tina Rice
Ivy Weston by Jamie Carvelli Pikrone
Karen Weston by Jasmine Kojouri
Bill Fordham by Jake Staley
Jean Fordham by Daniela Munafo
Steve Heidebrecht by Brian David Sloan
Mattie Fae Aiken by Barbara King
Charlie Aiken by TIMOTHY CUMMINGS
Little Charles Aiken by Andrei Calvert
Johnna Monevata by Graciela Strahan
Sheriff Deon Gilbeau by Adam Martinez
Photo: "funeral-dinner, most of cast"
With permission (c) Richard Brusky