Sunday afternoon Sweetie and I ventured downtown and maneuvered through the ice and snow on the parking lots and sidewalks to see the national touring production of “August: Osage County” at the Tulsa Performing Arts Center. I mean we had to go see it, we have some ties. First the play is set in Pawhuska, OK about 60 miles northwest of Tulsa, in Osage County. Second the play was written by Tracy Letts. I have never met him but I have met his mother, the author Billie Letts, (an experience that I am sure changed her life.). Third Mrs. Letts and her late husband, Dennis Letts, were associated with my Sweetie’s alma mater, Southeast Oklahoma State University in Durant, OK. ( You may recall that Durant is home of the world’s biggest peanut, but that is another post.)
The play is about the Weston family. The patriarch, Beverly disappears after a brief appearance at the beginning of the play. His three daughters and others in the family show up to join his wife Violet Weston in figuring out what to do. Beverly is a drunk and Violet is a druggie. He says they have “an arrangement.” The play is about the dysfunctional family and how no matter how bad things are, it can always get worse.
Estelle Parsons plays the role of Violet. She is one foul mouthed abusive domineering mother. Ms. Parson’s steals the show in the second act during a dinner scene. With a foul leer on her mouth she lets each of her daughters have it in an explosion of language of cursing and venom that blistered my ears.
The play is advertised like a drama but the audience laughed a lot. The characters, but one, are cynical and you know cynicism plays funny, like sarcasm, but empty. Much of the dialogue is funny but its the kind of funny that doesn’t really make you feel good. I am not talking about the quality of the script. I am talking about the desperation of the characters.
The family members are living desperate lives. They don’t have anywhere to go. The source of grace in the show is Johnna Montevata, a Cheyenne Indian whom Beverly Weston hired, to cook and clean, before he disappeared. She is the one source of grace and solace in the show. Violet calls her “The Indian in the attic.” The attic is where the characters go for comfort.
The set is an important part of the play. It is huge, three stories high and looms over everything like a separate presence. Its like a cathedral. I am not smart enough to figure out how it is all supposed to work, but the Weston family is in sliding into chaos and needs some sort of deliverance.
I loved this play. The script and the characters rang true. Beware, it is very very intense and the language is rough This isn’t a play for children
I give it four stars out of four.
Check out the National Tour web site. Lots of good info there.