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A CurtainUp Review
August: Osage County
At three and a half hours and featuring a cast of 13, Anna Shapiro's Steppenwolf world premiere is generous, if you like toxic soap opera. Eventually, it's overwhelming, as if a tranquilizer dart kicked in and the shock effects of pederasty, illegitimacy and incest no longer registered. But there's no questioning that, however grotesque the confessions and upchucking the revelations, they carry the shock of the familiar and the thrill of the known.
The plot device that assembles this nest of vipers is almost too easy: the clan's patriarch Beverly Weston (played by the author's father) kills himself, providing the pretext for a family reunion in a hot Oklahoma country manse. Immediately immersed in the snake pit, we're introduced to the spiteful, vindictive, pill-popping widow (Deanne Dunagan, ferociously cast against her delicate type), dying of mouth cancer, and the three daughters whose worthless love matches reflect and perpetuate the parents' monumental marital mess. There's a randy uncle preying on his very willing teenage niece, two cousins who are into more than kissing, and an aunt whose happiness consists of belittling her imbecile son. In sharp contrast and with great dignity, Kimberly Guerrero plays the Native-American housekeeper who witnesses the Westons' self-destruction with the same hapless passivity with which her ancestors saw Indian Territory carved up into Oklahoma.
Shapiro's ensemble includes Steppenwolf's sturdiest character actors, particularly Rondi Reed as a tough-loving harridan mother, Amy Morton as the undervalued daughter who turns on her monster mother, and Jeff Perry as her cipher of a husband, a philandering professor who should never get tenure.
Carnivorous to the end, August is a play that in effect eats itself up as, disposing and dispensing, it hurls its characters from the house, their miseries pitilessly but realistically unresolved. By default, our sympathy goes to the dead father whose suicide slowly and surely makes all the sense in the world. The play quotes T.S. Eliot saying (early in his career), "Life is very long." So is August: Osage County.
Easy-on-the budget super gift for yourself and your musical loving friends. Tons of gorgeous pictures.
Leonard Maltin's 2007 Movie Guide
At This Theater
Leonard Maltin's 2005 Movie Guide