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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
August: Osage County
|And then you're gone, and then you're gone, and then you're gone—Violet
Estelle Parson as Violet Weston
(Photo: Joan Marcus)
Wailing the loss of the last of the three daughters she has driven away, Violet Weston (Estelle Parsons) ends three and a half scabrous hours of alcoholism, drug abuse and incest lacerated with one-liners that made the audience howl on opening night of Tracy Letts' 2008 Pulitzer Prize-winning play Wednesday at the Ahmanson. It blends the stories of Letts' grandparents with his political view of America. Johnna, the Native American housekeeper isn't there by accident. She loves her parents, bashes a pedophile with a frying pan and sings Vi a lullabye.
| Editor's Note: Curtainup has followed Tracy Letts' family saga from its premiere in Chicago, to its move to Broadway where it snapped up every prize to be won. We went back to see it as the cast changed, as is inevitable with a long-running hit. Our London critic clocked in on its arrival at her side of the pond with many of the original cast members. Typical of Pulitzer Prize winners, this is a play that will be seen in many other regions. These regional productions will give new actors a chance to portray the dysfunctional Westons, and some a chance to play their parts with new cast members, a case in point being the Los Angeles production with the superb Estelle Parsons giving her version of Violet Weston another outing. It arrives at the Ahmanson as Letts' new (and much shorter) play, Superior Donuts settles in on Broadway.
August: Osage in Chicago
August: Osage in NY & London
The family consists of Barbara (Shannon Cochran), bright, with her mother's sharp tongue and still in love with Bill (Jeff Still), her husband of 23 years who's leaving her for a younger woman; Ivy (Angelica Torn), the quiet one; Karen (Amy Warren),whose engaged to totally the wrong man, the above-mentioned pedophile Steve (Laurence Lau). There's Barbara's daughter Jean (Emily Kinney), a teen-age nymphomamiac.
There's the Aiken family, Violet's sister Mattie Fay (Libby George), her husband Charles (Paul Vincent O'Connor) and their supposed son Little Charles (Stephen Riley Key); also Sheriff Deon Gilbeau (Marcus Nelson), Barb's long-ago prom date who still fancies her, is the man who found the body of Beverly Weston (Jon De Vries) in the lake. The ensuing funeral, which reluctantly reunites the Westons, unleashes a hornet's nest which culminates in a knock-down drag-out brawl between Vi and Barb.
At 82, Parsons is amazing. The rasping voice, the flight of stairs, the caustic wit are those of a woman half her age. She's ably assisted by a fine cast, directed by Anna D. Shapiro, whose sly nuances punctuate the play with humor. "I don't understand your meanness," says Charles, referring to Mattie Fae's caustic treatment of their son as well as Vi's to her daughters.
The last act is too long but the mixture of pain and pathos has its points. Letts channeled that and most of it comes through.
August: Osage County |
Playwright: Tracy Letts
Director: Anna D. Shapiro
Cast: Jon DeVries (Beverly), DeLanna Studi (Johnna). Estelle Parsons (Violet), Anglica Torn (Ivy), Libby George (Mattie Fae), Paul Vincent O'Connor (Charles), Jeff Still (Bill), Shannon Cochran (Barbara), Emily Kinney (Jean), Marcus Nelson (Sheriff), Amy Warren (Karen), Laurence Lau (Steve), Stephen Riley Key (Little Charles).
Scenic Design: Todd Rosenthal
Costume Design: Ana Kuzmanic
Lighting Design: Ann G. Wrightson
Sound Design: Richard Woodbury
Original Music: David Singer
Fight Choreography: Chuck Coyl
Running Time: Three and a half hours
Running Dates: Sept. 8-Oct. 18, 2009
Where: Ahmanson Theatre, Center Theatre Group, Los Angeles. Reservations: 213-972-7376.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on Sept. 9.
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