Reviewed by Helen S. Bas
As I was leaving Clio Cast & Crew’s Theater 57 last night, I heard a fellow audience member comment, ‘That was kinda like art imitating life.”
Indeed. Tracy Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-winning August: Osage County offers a big dose of the intricate, intimate connections of the Weston clan in 2007 Oklahoma. The play won the 2008 Pulitzer for drama, but it’s full of humor, too, much of it sadly comical.
The play opens with Beverly Weston (played by Patrick Blondin), the patriarch of a large, dysfunctional family, sitting in the den of their rambling three-story house. He’s interviewing Johnna Monevata (Becky Woodhams) for a job as caregiver for his wife, Violet (Laura Friesen), who’s suffering from mouth cancer and is addled by prescription meds.
The single set used throughout the play is rather remarkable, showing porch, main floor and attic with a stairway to the second floor bedrooms. It’s quite versatile, with realistic detail.
So Bev hires Johnna, whose Native American ethnicity later causes a bit of discomfiture in the family. Soon after, the drama ensues, with the Westons’ three daughters and various other family members adding to the Bev-centered stew.
Middle daughter Ivy (Jane McMillan) harbors a horrifying secret; youngest daughter Karen (Carrie Hayes) and her boyfriend, Steve (Christopher Dinnan) add annoyance and minor (compared to the rest) mayhem.
Oldest daughter Barbara Fordham (Kim Barrett) arrives with husband Bill (Kevin Profitt), their daughter Jean (Dawn Sabourin), and a cartload of problems. We also see throughout the three acts Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae Aiken (Cheryl Blondin) and her husband, Charlie (Ron Fournier). Their son, Little Charles (Connor Klee), plays a smallish but integral part in the drama, as does Sheriff Deon Gilbeau (Dave Turner).
The three-hour, two-intermission play, directed by Bill Kircher and assistant director Ed Nelson (with producer Maggie Harmon) goes by fast — it’s enthralling drama shot through with a hefty amount of humor.
This is a well-written ensemble piece with several roles nevertheless taking center stage: Violet and Barbara have a lot of history to sort through, and the three daughters have to contend with whole lifetimes of messy sister stuff.
August: Osage County is suggested for mature audiences only, due to references to adultery, mild hanky-panky and, especially, language. The play is liberally sprinkled — okay, peppered — with profanity, but it is most certainly not gratuitous. While it may offend some, the frequent four-letter words help solidify the characters’ personalities.
Clio Cast & Crew’s actors and behind-the-scenes crew should be mightily proud of this production. It’s a huge endeavor, well acted by the entire cast, and engrossing to watch.
August: Osage County continues tonight and February 15–16 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday and February 17 at 2 p.m. Performances are held at CC&C’s Theater 57, 2220 W. Vienna Rd. in Clio. Call 810-687-2588 for more information.