A vanished father. A pill-popping mother. Three sisters harboring shady little secrets. When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunites after Dad disappears, their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling secrets. A major new play that unflinchingly - and uproariously - exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family.
“I’d bet the farm that no family has ever been as unhappy in as many ways - and to such sensationally entertaining effect - as the Westons of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY, a fraught, densely plotted saga of an Oklahoma clan in a state of near-apocalyptic meltdown. Fiercely funny and bitingly sad…[a] turbo-charge tragicomedy…” The New York Times
“This original and corrosive black comedy deserves a seat at the dinner table with the great American family plays.” - Time Magazine
“This is a play that will leave us laughing and wondering, shuddering and smiling, long after the house lights come back on.” - New York Newsday
EMOTIONS RUN HOT IN GOOD THEATER’S ‘AUGUST’
Portland Press Herald, By April Boyle, 11/5/2011
High-octane drama is unfolding on the Good Theater's stage with an up-close-and-personal look into the better-than-reality television lives of the Weston family. The theater's most popular production to date, "August: Osage County," is back for a 15-performance run. And emotions are running at full throttle this time around.
Oklahoma was everything but OK Thursday night as the Weston family secrets bubbled to the surface in the small town of Pawhuska. Tempers, emotions, wit and plates, among other things, were flying as the Westons gathered, following the mysterious disappearance of the family's patriarch, Beverly (Chris Horton).
The Good Theater has reunited all but one of the 13 cast members from last year's production -- Allison McCall takes on the role of Jean Fordham, previously played by Emma Banks -- to once again bring Tracy Letts' three-act epic to life.
Audiences couldn't ask for a more riveting interpretation. It's like seeing a production at the end of its
run, but better. Last year's 20-performance run was one heck of a dress rehearsal that's afforded the cast the opportunity to fine-tune the characterizations, amp up the witty dialogue and realistically capture an emotionally charged slice of life.
Lisa Stathoplos was completely immersed in her role as the pill-popping matriarch, Violet, on Thursday, blurring the lines between reality and fiction. Her slurred speech, derailed train of thought, unsteady gait and antagonistic manner were so believable that it wouldn't have come as a surprise if a rehab team had shown up at the end of the performance to admit the actress into a three-step program.
She remained in character throughout the three-hour-plus play, succeeding in capturing both the raw emotion and humor of the role, without caricature.
Her performance was fueled by Kathleen Kimball's emotionally taut portrayal of Barbara Fordham, Beverly and Violet's oldest daughter. The character unraveled before the audience's eyes, overwhelmed by the reality of her soap-opera-like life. The explosive last scene between mother and daughter is definitely something to see.
The Weston clan is a large family that also includes Beverly and Violet's daughters, Ivy (Amy Roche) and Karen (Janice Gardner); Violet's sister, Mattie Fae Aiken (Cynthia Barnett); Mattie Fae's husband, Charlie (Charles Michael Howard), and son, Little Charles (Brent Askari); Barbara's husband, Bill (Mark Rubin); and Karen's fiance, Steve Heidebrecht (Paul Drinan). Non-family members Johnna Monevata (Katherine Davis), the Westons' housekeeper, and Deon Gilbeau (David Branch), the town sheriff, round out the amazing cast.
It would be easy to go on and on about each cast member. All artfully bring out all the wonderful quirks and unstable aspects of their characters. And the actor dynamics are superb.
"August: Osage County" has it all: passion, intrigue, incest, adultery, drugs, alcohol and abuse, to name just a few story elements. It's gripping drama, with a healthy dose of wit and humor and a multi-layered plot that unveils something new with each viewing. It's a production worth seeing again and again.
‘AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY’ IS POWERFUL DRAMA
The Forecaster by Scott Andrews, 11/7/2011
One of the most powerful stage dramas in recent years was Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County,” which opened on Broadway in 2007 and ran a year and a half – a remarkable performance for a straight play. When Good Theater presented its Maine premiere last fall, it broke all of the company’s attendance records, and many wannabe attendees had to be turned away.
So it’s no surprise that artistic director Brian P. Allen decided to bring it back for the 2011-2012 season. And equally remarkably, he’s got 12 of the 13 actors he had last year. “August: Osage County” runs through Nov. 20 at the top of Munjoy Hill in Portland.
One of the most powerful American plays in recent decades is Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County,” a darkly comedic drama about the disintegration, implosion and self-destruction of three generations of a Midwestern family.
The playwright is a member of Chicago’s Steppenwolf Company, which first produced the script in 2006. When it transferred to Broadway in 2007, “August: Osage County” won both the Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama. (It also won four other Tonys.) Good Theater produced the Maine premiere last fall, and it was a sensational success, topping all attendance records in the company’s history.
It’s back for Good Theater’s 2011-2012 season, and its just a powerful as it was last year.
“August: Osage County” is a large, sprawling play with a cast of 13 and a huge set. The original production recreated a three-story house; Good Theater’s set, designed by Steve Underwood, spills out of its available space in all dimensions. Although the formal time span covers only a few weeks, the play extensively revisits long-past episodes in the lives of the characters, giving the impression that decades roll by.
Director Brian P. Allen has assembled a top-notch professional cast. The action mostly revolves around the confrontation of two bitterly opposed characters, an aging woman and her middle-age daughter. The drama begins when patriarch of the family – who describes himself as a “world-class alcoholic” – goes missing and the family gathers at the homestead in rural Oklahoma. The first act concludes with the sheriff announcing that his body has been found at the bottom of a local reservoir, an apparent suicide.
The many conflicts that were set up in the first act reach a climax in the second, and an uneasy resolution is reached in the third.
Both of the two principal women characters get bravura performances. Lisa Stathoplos is sensational as the 65-year-old matriarch of the family, a melancholy, strong-willed woman who is addicted to prescription drugs and possesses a razor-edged tongue. She’s more than matched by Kathleen Kimball as the conflicted daughter who is vainly attempting to keep her own family together – her professor husband is having an affair with one of his college students – while she simultaneously tries to control her mother’s kith and kin.
The language is at times very crude and the entire experience iss. It has much the character of a multi-episode soap opera, as hidden secrets are revealed at regular intervals during the play’s three-hour-plus running time. Several secondary plots are interwoven throughout. Incest and adultery are involved, and each of the 13 characters has to work through his or her own set of demons. Most of them are unsuccessful.
There’s a lot of humor involved, and Letts’ wry observations on many subjects add much to the theatrical experience.
I’ve been attending Good Theater since its inception, and “August: Osage County” is definitely the most powerful drama the company has mounted. I was profoundly impressed by the 2010 production, and the current one is equally good – perhaps even improved in some of the finer points of performance.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
The Journal Tribune by Greg Morrell, 11/8/2011
A Pulitzer Prize and five Tony awards greeted Tracy Lett’s “August: Osage County” when it premiered on Broadway in 2007. What greets audiences at Portland’s GOOD THEATER is a superb production of this contemporary masterwork, not in the expanse of a Broadway theater but within the intimate confines of their petite playhouse of 100 seats on Portland’s Munjoy Hill.
It’s hot in August in Oklahoma’s Osage County and this family drama really turns up the heat.
The action is intense, the content disturbing and provocative, the writing brilliant, and the protean efforts of the 13 member cast keeps you on the edge of your seat for the full three acts. The two ten minute intermissions give you a chance to breathe deeply as this is challenging material that cuts to the bone.
As the drama unfolds, we feel more like uninvited guests at this rancorous family gathering rather than theater goers watching from the comfort of our seats. I loved this play--a searing tale of disfunction and dissolution that reminded me of Albee’s “Whose Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” Instead of a cast of four academics in a small college town out for a long bender, we are regaled with a deeply probing family drama of three sisters that have convened with their spouses to the grand ramshackle country house of their parents due to the strange disappearance of their alcohol soaked poet/retired professor father.
What follows is a brutal exposure of family secrets that careen like a train wreck. No nerve is spared as this family falls into collective meltdown. F-bombs fly in a firestorm of insult and injury.
The overall cast is excellent and represent a panoply of rich character types from the bold and brash to the pathologically internalized to those with acerbic wit and ripping sarcastic venom.
At the center of all is the pill popping matriarch, Violet Weston, magnificently played by Lisa Stathoplos. Vacillating between drug induced stupor and crisp intellectual insight, the chain smoking Violet is riveting.
As Violet staggers about, precariously teetering on the edge of balance, she mesmerizes with her cackling laugh, her acid tonged humor and her unabashed proclamations and condemnations that deliciously pepper the shocking proceedings. Despite her frail exterior she displays an inner strength that belies her age and ill health.
This is powerful drama invested with outrageous humor that creates a masterful theatrical feast. Smashing plates, rolling pin head banging, and brilliantly choreographed ensemble bickering--as when the entire cast is chaotically carping, complaining and vociferating in a full stage muster--are hallmarks of this cleverly directed production.
This is superb theater craft that the adventurous theater goer does not want to miss.
Theatre highlights of 2010 - "August" was tops
By MEGAN GRUMBLING | December 22, 2010
In my local orbits among both actors and theater-goers, one play of 2010 continues to be regularly hailed in conversation: GOOD THEATER's momentous production of August: Osage County, a profane and exceptionally funny foray into Middle American generational pathos. Tracy Letts's superbly harrowing script deserves all the praise it's reaped from the Pulitzer committee and elsewhere; it has the depth and articulate anguish of the best of modern dramas, and in staging it, director Brian Allen wrought the Good Theater's most powerful show yet. Allen's large and formidable cast of the extended Weston family, led by the incomparable Lisa Stathoplos as the pill-addled matriarch Vi, had a rapport of exceptional cohesion and nuance, and as Vi's eldest daughter and chief antagonist, Kathleen Kimball was arresting and heartbreaking. As Westons variously eviscerated each other, their own myths, and the American promise of progress for over three hours of running time, the Good Theater's remarkable cast carried a dramatic triumph.
'AUGUST' transports audience to family's disquieting reunion
The Maine Sunday Telegram by April Boyle, 10/17/2010
PORTLAND - The temperature here in Maine is getting a bit frigid, but the air is heating up in the Westons' Pawhuska, Okla., home as tempers flare and secrets are revealed.
The Good Theater kicked off its fall season last week with the New England regional premiere of Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County."
The Pulitzer Prize-winning play, which also was awarded five Tonys, is an intriguing study of human nature that reveals the dark side of a Midwestern family. And the Good Theater has crafted a scaled-down rendition that drives home the issues with wit, humor and stunning realism.
"We hope you will enjoy the show and tell your friends about it," artistic director Brian P. Allen told the audience Friday night as he introduced the play.
"However," he continued with a sly smile, "we ask that you not reveal any of our dirty little secrets and, in turn, we won't reveal any of yours!"
As Allen hinted, the play is packed with hidden truths and surprises that are unearthed throughout the play, which has a running time of more than three hours and is broken into three acts, with two 10-minute intermissions.
To accommodate the long running time, Good Theater is starting the evening performances at 7 p.m. and the matinees at 2 p.m. And, despite the length, "August: Osage County" is definitely not a sleeper.
Expect sparks to fly in this fly-on-the-wall production that allows the audience a voyeuristic view of the soap opera-like reunion of the Weston family.
In the opening scene, the audience meets the family's Jack Daniel's-guzzling, T.S. Eliot-quoting patriarch, Beverly Weston, played with just the right amount of witty cynicism by Chris Horton. He is interviewing a local American Indian woman, Johnna Monevata (Katherine Davis), for a position as housekeeper and caregiver for his pill-popping wife, Violet Weston (Lisa Stathoplos).
Stathoplos delivers a must-see, tragicomic performance as the troubled addict. She delivers a convincing performance, complete with disheveled appearance, slowed actions and a disrupted speech pattern.
When the lights come back up on Scene 2, Beverly has been mysteriously missing for five days, and the Weston family has begun arriving to comfort and watch over his distraught wife.
As the scenes progress, the audience meets the couple's daughters Ivy (Amy Roche), Barbara (Kathleen Kimball) and Karen (Janice Gardner); Barbara's daughter, Jean (Emma Banks), and her husband, Bill (Mark Rubin); Karen's fiance, Steve Heidebrecht (Paul Drinan); Violet's older sister, Mattie Fae Aiken (Cynthia Barnett), and her husband, Charlie (Charles Michael Howard); the Aikens' son, Little Charles (Brent Askari); and the local sheriff, Deon Gilbeau (David Branch).
Kimball delivers a standout performance as Barbara, and Barnett and Howard bring color and comic relief as Mattie Fae and Charlie.
The Broadway production of the play featured elaborate, three-story sets that would never fit into the intimate theater at the St. Lawrence Arts Center. In their place, Stephen Underwood has crafted a three-dimensional set that cleverly gives the illusion of levels.
And by using a scaled-down set, Good Theater artfully gives even greater focus to the characters in this already character-driven play. The result is an intense dark comedy, packed with unforgettable performances and stimulating wordplay.
Crushing heartbreak on the American plains
The Portland Phoenix by Megan Grumbling 10/20/2010
Osage County, Oklahoma is a hot, landlocked span of plains on the border of Kansas. "Who's the asshole who saw this big, flat nothing and decided to plant his flag here?" wonders middle-aged Barbara as she unwillingly treads the threshold of her childhood home. It's before this stifling and unforgiving Midwestern landscape that Tracy Letts, himself a child of Oklahoma, stages his modern American classic, the darkly comedic drama August: Osage County. The story of an extended family's savage self-destruction, this 2008 winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Drama is a profane and exceptionally funny foray into Middle American generational pathos. Director Brian P. Allen opens Good Theater's season with an impeccably cast and monumentally acted production.
When patriarch Beverly Weston (Chris Horton), a one-time famous poet and lifelong "professional alcoholic," goes missing, three generations of Westons reunite rancorously under the same roof to tend his wife Vi (Lisa Stathoplos), the family's acid-tongued, pill-addicted matriarch. There in the three stories of the family home, which Vi has sealed against the daylight (and which set designer Stephen Underwood renders evocatively in disembodied windows and walls, à la Our Town), for more than three hours of running time almost no relationship escapes the fray: In strife between sisters, between mothers and daughters, and between wives and husbands, the Westons variously eviscerate each other, their own myths, and the American promise of progress.
Allen's excellent actors have been preparing for the show together since August, and the long rehearsal period shows in the cast's remarkable cohesion, as well as in the marvelously rich nuances at play in the Weston family's nexus of fraught and secret-ridden relationships. Vi's sister Mattie Fay (Cynthia Barnett) bickers with her husband Charlie (Charles Michael Howard) with the resignation and elisions of long conjugal cross-purposes, and puts down their self-effacing, unemployed son Charlie (Brent Askari) as if in long practice. In contrast, Vi's eldest daughter Barbara (Kathleen Kimball) upbraids both her estranged husband Bill (Mark Rubin) and their teenage daughter Jean (Emma Banks) with the viciousness of the newly wounded. But the uncontested mistress of verbal warfare is Vi, for whose sly and brilliant cruelties everyone else is constantly on the alert.
Brought together, Vi's three beautifully drawn daughters, Barbara, Ivy (Amy Roche) and Karen (Janice Gardner) are at once fruit from the same tree of wit and insecurities, and at the same time strikingly distinct from one another: Watch Karen's loose-bodied narcissism in her cleavage-revealing funeral dress, gesturing obliviously with dinner-table napkins, in contrast to Barbara, tight-mouthed and high-bodiced, as she goes around furiously re-folding them. Watch all three of them alone together passing a bottle of Jack, wavering between resentment and intimacy, and finally sharing it for a moment in hilarity over how best to refer to their mother's "cooch" (in which she'd once stashed bottle of pills).
An array of these relationships abrades bracingly throughout the show, but the crowning cataclysm is the funeral dinner of the second act, in which 10 adults are captive, including Karen's schmucky fiancé Steve (Paul Drinan), and even the Native-American housekeeper (Katherine Davis) is present at the "children's table" with Jean. This masterfully directed scene builds in a marvel of turbulent — and often hilarious — inflections, gestures and glances, and when the shit finally hits the fan, both the sting and the ache of the violence are exquisite.
‘Osage County’ a powerful drama
“August: Osage County” at The Good Theater in Portland is a multi-generational drama.
The Times Record by Scott Andrews, 10/21/2010
PORTLAND — Soap opera and tragic drama share a common driving force: the sense of perverse fascination with personal self-destruction and social implosion. Like the proverbial fly on the wall, the viewer witnesses and vicariously experiences the nightmarish process from a safe distance.
One of the most powerful and successful American stage dramas of recent decades harnesses that power, combining elements of both soap opera and Shakespearean tragedy. “August: Osage County” written by Tracy Letts, debuted in Chicago three years ago. The subsequent Broadway production in 2007 won two of the most prestigious honors in stagecraft: The Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama.
A darkly comedic drama about the disintegration of a large Midwestern family of three generations, “August: Osage County” is being produced in Maine for the first time by Portland’s Good Theater. Under the direction of Brian P. Allen, this powerful drama is enjoying a wonderful professional (non-Equity) production that runs through Nov. 7.
I’ve been attending Good Theater since its inception, and “August: Osage County” is definitely the most powerful drama the company has mounted to date. It’s well worth the drive to Portland to see it.
“August: Osage County” is a large, sprawling play with a cast of 13 and a huge set. The Broadway production recreated a three-story house; Good Theater’s much smaller set, designed by Steve Underwood, spills out of its available space in all dimensions and is capped by three architecture details — two dormers and a gable — that hang high above the stage and provide an almost ethereal quality.
The interior of the set is constructed on three levels, suggesting different floors of a big old house. The furniture is large and massive, mirroring the house itself and metaphorically reflecting the three generations of family members who quarrel beneath its roof.
Creating this sense of large size in a physically small space also challenges the lighting designer, who needs to deftly alter colors and intensities. Jamie Grant rises to the challenge and succeeds.
Although the formal time span between opening curtain and denouement covers only a few weeks during the month of August, the script extensively revisits long-past episodes in the lives of the characters, giving the impression that decades are rolling by. The play’s long running time — three hours and 15 minutes, including two intermissions — also creates the impression of an epic journey.
Good Theater has assembled a top-notch professional cast. The action mostly revolves around two bitterly opposed characters, an aging woman and her middle-age daughter. They find themselves together for the funeral of the patriarch of the family, who has drowned himself under mysterious circumstances.
Both of the two principal women characters get bravura performances. Lisa Stathoplos is magnificent portraying the 65-year-old matriarch of the family, a melancholy, razor-tongued woman whose mind is addled by her addiction to a smorgasbord of drugs and tortured by psychological demons. This character represents one of the Himalayan peaks of the stage, and Stathoplos has successfully scaled the summit.
She’s equaled by Kathleen Kimball as a conflicted daughter who is battling enemies on all sides, futilely struggling to keep her own family together while she simultaneously tries to control her two sisters and her mother’s kith and kin. This character requires reserves of raw emotional energy, and Kimball brings a full tank to Good Theater.
There are numerous peripheral dramas and criss-crossing relationships. This unhappy family gives new meaning to the adjective “dysfunctional.” One of these side dramas concerns the tension between the matriarch and her sister, played by Cynthia Barnett.
It is augmented and exacerbated by another sub-drama exploring the sister’s relationship with her husband, played by Charles Michael Howard. Barnett and Howard are both members of Actors Equity, and appear in this professional non-Equity production by special arrangement.
The language is at times very foul and it’s an emotional roller-coaster. It has much the character of a multi-episode soap opera, as long-hidden secrets are periodically revealed and metaphorical skeletons fall out of closets at regular intervals. There’s also a lot of comedy — acerbic repartee and caustic one-liners — interspersed throughout the play.
The tone for “August: Osage County” is set in a lengthy first scene — termed a “prologue” by the playwright — which is mostly a monologue by the soon-to-be-dead patriarch of the family, played memorably by Chris Horton.
He describes himself as a “world class alcoholic” and outlines the sad pharmaceutical history of his wife, who makes a very brief appearance. The prologue concludes with a declamation on the poet T.S. Eliot and the gift of a book of his poetry to his wife’s caretaker, played by Katherine Davis
The play ends with the lights fading and Davis softly reciting Eliot’s most famous lines: “This is how the world ends. Not with a bang but a whimper.”
Violet - Lisa Stathoplos
Beverly - Chris Horton
Barbara - Kathleen Kimball
Bill - Mark Rubin
Jean - Emma Banks
Mattie Fae - Cynthia Barnett*
Charlie - Charles Michael Howard*
Little Charles - Brent Askari
Ivy - Amy Roche
Karen - Janice Gardner
Steve - Paul Drinan
Sheriff Deon - David Branch
Johnna - Kate Davis
Director - Brian P. Allen
Set Design - Stephen Underwood
Lighting Design - Jamie Grant
Costume Design - Justin Cote
Stage Manager - Joshua Hurd
Scenic Artist - Janet Montgomery
Assistant Tech Director/Photographer - Craig Robinson
* Member Actors' Equity Association