Review: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY at Backyard Renaissance

Playing through September 16th

By: Sep. 12, 2023
Review: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY at Backyard Renaissance

Even the best family get-togethers can cause fireworks, but when the Weston family gets together they aren’t afraid to burn everything to the ground. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY by Backyard Renaissance, which is playing through September 16th offers some breathtaking performances in this comedy-drama about the strong-willed Weston family who have all chosen paths away from each other until a family crisis brings them all back. 

Set in Osage County, Oklahoma in the unrelenting heat of August, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY by Tracy Letts offers a glimpse at a complex, darkly funny, and always fractious Westin family.  This three-hour play is less the idyllic nuclear family, more like a nuclear bomb, and all a big dramatic theatrical experience.

Beverly (Robert Smyth), is an occasional poet, but a full-time heavy drinker and family patriarch.  As the play opens the audience finds him hiring a new caregiver and cook Johnna (Faith Carrion).  He is hiring her to help around the house as his wife Violet (Deborah Gilmour Smyth) is recovering from mouth cancer, sometimes can be found incoherently wandering around the house, but mostly is an eagle-eyed pill popper and stone cold when spewing her venom.  It’s no wonder that Beverly drinks.

Review: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY at Backyard Renaissance

When Beverly disappears, the rest of the family arrives on the scene to help Violet cope with the search and with whatever the aftermath is when Beverly is found.  The oldest daughter Barbara (Jessica John) moved her family to Colorado, but she, her husband Bill (John DeCarlo), and their pot-smoking teen Jean (Ava Smithier) have come back to help in this time of crisis.  Barb and Bill are like shadows of her parents and always fighting, which prompts Jean to continually find people and places to smoke with to find some relief.

Soon more have arrived; Ivy (Megan Carmitchel) is the only local Weston daughter, and though she stands up to her mother on some things, she is looking for a way out and to make her own future away from this place with a secret boyfriend she won’t tell anyone about.  The other sister Karen (Kay Marian McNellen) has come back from Florida, to help the family in this difficult time but mostly to show off her fiance Steve (Rob Lufty).

Violet’s sister Mattie Fae (Maggie Carney) has brought her husband Charles (Jacob Bruce) to help, though she is continually disparaging of her son Young Charles (Anthony Methvin), who shows up late.

By the time Sheriff Deon (Justin Lang) comes to the house with news, this powder keg is ready to go off.

On a beautiful three-story set by Tony Cucuzzella, with lighting by Erik Montierth that allows for the character to be seen even when lurking in the shadows, this family drama plays in tragicomic ways. 

The entire ensemble is excellent; a play like this doesn’t work if everyone isn’t firing on all cylinders.  As all the characters weave in and out and interact the tensions and the temperatures rise. They’re like bumper cars, forever destined to collide no matter where they go.

Whale all are good there are a few standouts to mention. Gilmour Smyth whose Violet drifts between drug addict vaguery to scalpel sharp vindictiveness. Carney as Violet's sister Mattie Fae provides delightful comedic moments but is equally as cold-blooded to her own son as Violet is to everyone. John as Barbara equally powerful as the embittered Barabra who gives as good as she gets when dealing with her mother.  

There is a sweet and funny scene with Barbara, Ivy, and Karen (John, Carmitchel, and McNellen)  as they try to reconnect, but it only underscores that there is no escaping the chaos of the Weston family, no matter how far you go.

Review: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY at Backyard Renaissance

Directed by Francis Gercke, the play is tightly paced and never loses momentum even with the intermissions. It captures the play's absurdity in these empty rituals that are expected, but truly have no meaning.  A highlight of this is the family’s funeral dinner, where saying grace becomes a rambling mess of only half-remembered Christian prayers, and ends with fangs bared and pills flying.  Never has family dysfunction been more entertaining.

How To Get Tickets

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY by Backyard Renaissance is playing at the 10th Avenue Theatre through September 16th.  Ticket and show time information can be found at

Photo Credit: The cast of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY - courtesy of Pine & Pebble Photography!



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