Friday, January 16, 2009

August: Osage County

by Pa Rock
Drama Critic

Tonight we took in our first drama on Broadway. It was a stunning piece entitled August: Osage County, and from the audience perspective it was three hours in the household of a raging, dysfunctional family. These people had it all: alcoholism, drug addiction, a pot-smoking child, light incest, broken marriages, serious sibling rivalry, and, almost as if for good measure, a child molester. Playwright Tracy Letts has penned a powerful family drama that is shocking, fast-paced, and very believable, all stitched together with a strong thread of dark humor.

An acquaintance of mine who works in the drama department of a major university categorized this genre as a "screaming mother play," and that label easily fits August: Osage County. This screaming mother, however, has three screaming daughters to help her spread the love. Everyone in the audience undoubtedly found certain things with which they could identify in this play, but God help those who identified with too much of it!

The cast were basically all standouts, but two were easily recognizable to people who watch too much television - like myself. Estelle Parsons was the screaming mother. She came to the role with a theatrical background in dysfunctional families, having played Roseanne Barr's mother on the television show, Rosanne. The other recognizable face was John Cullum, the father who disappears during the first act and sets the stage for the family reunion from hell. Cullum played the bartender, Hollis, with the young girlfriend on Northern Exposure.

August: Osage County will work your emotions, and work them hard. It is not a play for sissies!


brenda from Mac County said...

OK, not to be a wiseass, but what is "light incest?" Is that incest that only occurs during the daytime, or as opposed to "heavy incest," kind of like the difference between light and heavy petting? (Although, I never really did get the difference between those latter two, unless you can say, above and below "the belt." ;-}

Pa Rock's Ramble said...

One of the screaming daughters was having an affair with her first cousin, which seemed to be acceptable because she was 45 and had had a hysterectomy - that she hadn't told her sisters about. It got sticky, however, when she learned that the cousin was really her half-brother. It wouldn't even raise an eyebrow in McCounty!