It’s rare that I give whole-hearted approval and heaps of praise to a theatrical endeavor. When I do get to see a show, particularly on Broadway, it’s usually enjoyable (I’m like a Make-a-Wish kid, just happy to be out of the house, seeing anything) and I’m like, whee, that was fun. But for August: Osage County I make the exception. This may be one of the best play I’ve seen in a very, very long time. Culturally astute blogger ModFab recently gave his stamp of approval and I couldn’t agree more that “its richly-drawn characters and surprising storylines are so densely satisfying and so rapturously written, it feels like you’re eating a sumptuous 12-course meal.” (In the interest of full disclosure I used to work for one of the producers, and was comped my ticket. After seeing it, I would have more than gladly paid top ticket price.)
The show, penned by Tracy Letts (Bug, Killer Joe), is a 3 1/2 hour theatrical feast. According to the press materials:
When their patriarch vanishes, the Weston clan must return to their three-story home in rural Oklahoma to get to the heart of the matter. With rich insight and brilliant humor, Letts paints a vivid portrait of a Midwestern family at a turning point.
At the center of the play is Violet, a cancer-ridden pill-popping matriarch in the Mary Tyrone mold played by Deanna Dunagan. I don’t want to jinx the woman, but if she’s not nominated for a Tony Award then Broadway is seriously in worse shape than I thought.
Where other writers might have veered toward melancholy and histrionics, Letts packs his script with enough dark humor that the tragedies that befall three generations of Westons pack serious emotional heft.
I took my friend Matthew, a playwright and theater enthusiast, to the show with me as he’d been raving about it since Times critic Charles Isherwood gave it’s Steppenwolf run glowing praise. The matinee audience we watched the play with, usually the provenance of irritable blue hairs that rustle their programs and yammer to each other in audible whispers , was preternaturally still and silent throughout. (Though to the one or two who forced a cough every time one of the actors lit an herbal cigarette on stage, give it a rest. Seriously.) Even after three-plus hours and two intermissions, we left the theater wanting more.
The show, currently in previews, is only here as a limited engagement. If you have even the slightest inkling you might want to see “August,” I suggested getting tickets now. Once it the reviews are out, there won’t be an empty seat at the Imperial Theatre.