Broadway in Chicago presents
August: Osage County
151 W. Randolph
Written by Tracy Letts
Directed by Anna D. Shapiro
Thru February 14th
Running Time: Three hours and thirty minutes includes two intermissions
Every family has one! A black sheep! A nut job! A dramatic figure that craves attention through affliction or addiction. Pill popper, drunk, pedophile, stoner, cheat, in the Weston family, it’s everyone. Broadway in Chicago presents the 2008 Tony Award winning play, August: Osage County, for a limited two week engagement at the Cadillac Palace Theatre. Originally mounted at Steppenwolf Theatre in 2007, August: Osage County won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama for playwright Tracy Letts. It’s August. It’s Oklahoma. A crisis has rallied the Westons to their childhood farmhouse. Having escaped Osage County, they now return in support of the family tragedy. The struggle occurs when the dysfunctional individuals pretend to function as a unit. It’s only relative with genetic bonds. Tracy Letts has created a television reality show on stage. Its Jerry Springer meets Survivor meets Family Feud with a little Roseanne thrown in. Thirteen distinct individuals, no air conditioning, only the strongest will survive!
Meet the pace setting contestants…
Estelle Parsons (Violet) is hilarious as the brutally honest matriarch. Mouth cancer and an addiction to pain killers have loosened her tongue. “My momma was a nasty, mean old lady. I suppose that’s where I get it from,” declares Violet. Watch out, nothing gets by her!
Jon DeVries (Beverly) is the award-winning poet and drunk patriarch. “My wife takes pills and I drink. That’s the bargain we’ve struck,” admits Beverly. When hiring a caretaker, DeVries drawls out a long list of all the painkillers his wife takes with perfect comedic timing.
Shannon Cochran (Barbara) is the oldest daughter with a troubled marriage and teenager. Cochran bitterly battles hot flashes and control vs. ignorant bliss needs. Cochran’s transformation throughout the story is scary funny.
Libby George (Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae) delivers her cruelty wrapped in jokes. Speaking about her thirty-seven year old son, Mattie Fae quips, “Little Charles isn’t complicated, he’s just unemployed… Honey, you have to be smart to be complicated.” George’s humorous barbs are targeted at the weak, primarily her son.
Amy Warren (Karen) is the youngest daughter and deliciously self-absorbed about her ideal fiancé. Monologuing her sister, Karen says, “I guess what I’m telling you is that I’m finally happy. I’ve been really unhappy for most of my life, my adult life. I doubt you’ve been aware of that.” In a play dripping in sweaty drama, Warren’s flitting around in dreamy oblivion generates much needed chuckle release.
And that’s just a few of Letts’ thirteen distinctive characters with complicated back stories. (Yes, even Little Charles is complicated!) Under the masterful direction of 2008 Tony Award-Winning Director, Anna D. Shapiro, the 3 ½ hour show whizzes past. I’m consumed in Weston dialogue right up until the intriguing conclusion. My only speed bumps to sheer enjoyment of August: Osage County was a slight audio issue early in the show and the big bobble-headed woman in front of me. Channeling the Weston within, I say, “People with enormous heads should be denied theatre access.”
August: Osage County is a February: Chicago must! It’s the perfect winter escape that promises to make your family trauma dull by comparison . After August: Osage County whets your appetite to Tracy Letts’ genius, get a second helping of the award-winning playwright with Killer Joe at Profiles Theatre.
A reality show junkie, Dick calls the show an “Okie-dokey American Masterpiece.”