Theatre Reviews
Photo by Jon Gitchoff courtesy of the Rep

Tracy Letts’ play “August: Osage County” won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize as well as multiple 2008 Tony Awards including Best Play. The action takes place over the course of several weeks inside the three-story home of Beverly and Violet Weston in rural Oklahoma. When patriarch Beverly goes missing, his grown daughters Ivy, Barbara, and Karen come home to support their mother, Violet. As the family members gather, tensions quickly escalate. Violet, suffering from mouth cancer and addicted to a cocktail of prescription drugs, becomes increasingly erratic and verbally abusive. The fragile facade of normalcy shatters as family secrets are unearthed one by one.

The St. Louis Rep is closing its 23/24 Season with this gothic family saga. “August: Osage County” is considered a modern American classic and this iteration is well worth the three-and-a-half-hour watch time- and you won’t be checking the clock. Director, and former Rep Associate Artistic Director, Amelia Acosta Powell has assembled a near perfect team for this production and staged the epic masterwork beautifully. Ms. Powell has an appropriate light touch on this perfect script. Mr. Letts won the Pulitzer Prize for good reason: this is a family portrayal of no-holds-barred emotional combat and a laugh riot full of funny dialogue and bad behavior.

Local actor favorites Joneal Joplin, Alan Knoll, Michael James Reed and David Wassilak shine in their roles as does Webster University student Isa Venere making her professional debut. Out-of-towners Ellen McLaughlin and Henny Russell as matriarch Violet Weston and eldest daughter Barbara Fordham respectively are tours-de-force. Ms. McLaughlin physicalizes a drug addled and cancer ridden body impeccably. Ms. Russell’s comic timing, hair trigger anger, and depth of vulnerability make her character intensely relatable and very much the soul of the play. Claire Karpen as Ivy Weston and Yvonne Woods as Karen Weston round out the Weston sisters nicely with nuanced and emotionally layered performances.

Set designed by Regina Garcia is effective and puts us is in the three-story house with all the action. Lighting by Xavier Pierce compliments the play well and help with the sense of overheating in the house which is a plot point. Sonia Alvarez’ costumes work fine throughout.

Kudos to The Rep for rallying and producing a stellar season closer with “August: Osage County”. I look forward to next season and hope they continue to bring more local talent back onstage. While I appreciate some roles may call for going out of town, with so many talented actors here in St. Louis to quote Dorothy Gale “there’s no place like home!”

“August: Osage County” produced by The St. Louis Rep continues at the Loretto-Hilton Center through April 7th. For tickets and information go to The Rep website.

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