"August: Osage County" cast hauntingly portrays distraught familyBy Michael Dawson | 11/15/2017 10:47pm
There's a scene in the play "August: Osage County" when Violet Weston says "Wouldn't we be better off, all of us, if we stopped lying about these things and told the truth? Women aren't sexy when they're old. I can live with that. Can you live with that?"
In many ways, that form of self-denial is the driving core of "August: Osage County." Not because it is true nor necessarily fair to say that old women are unattractive, but that it is one of the many harsh realities superficially constructed in life that we have to face and struggle with on a daily basis. The oppression and objectification of women like Violet Weston who are seen by patriarchal society as "ugly" in their late age, colors these interactions and presents characterization in a stunningly raw portrait.
The play, written by Pulitzer Prize winner Tracy Lefts, follows an estranged southern family attempting to cope after the death of a relative. On paper, this sounds bare and uneventful, but its simple plot begins to unfold into intricate character design and ecstatic story beats.
The opening dialogue between between Beverly Weston, a famous poet turned family patriarch, and his wife Violet is both charmingly funny and illuminating in its display of Violet's medicated madness, stemmed directly from the mouth cancer she's dying from.
Despite this, her character is fiercely snarky and cynical, even in the face of her coming demise. She says "Indian" despite being told the proper term "Native American," which gives her a dated, yet comical, layer, and she doesn't believe in the capabilities of the adult women around her, which leads to equally funny scenes. She is a joy to watch and is played by a fantastic actor, much like the rest of the cast. Each performance is very believable and nuanced in movement and voice.
This boils into anguished conflict between Violet and her daughter Barbara Fordham, who is desperately trying to keep her family together, all while dealing with a drug-abusing mother, a husband who is having an affair with one of his students and a marijuana-smoking daughter. Tensions collide and suffuse into edge-of-your seat suspense, all the while masterfully blending in gust-busting humor seamlessly. The transition between comedy and drama is often quick and shocking, leaving the audience in emotional disarray, held captive by a roller coaster of a narrative, plunging into deep depths of chaos and despair.
Each character deals with some form of denial, whether it's not wanting to believe in a failed marriage, marrying a pedophile husband, getting old, or being responsible for the death of a father, which makes them all the more human and relatable. "August: Osage County" doesn't try to brush off existential dread, but instead embraces it as integral to the human experience, and even something we can laugh about from time to time. What's told is a beautifully haunting story about the maddening desolation endured by humanity, and the fortitude needed to overcome it.