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August: Osage County - 2008 Pulitzer Prize for drama opens in Manila

8.6
A twisted and powerful 3.5 hour rollercoaster ride

Written by Tracy Lettis, August: Osage County has a lot of depth. The story presents the nuances and intricacies of life without pretentions, so a lot of care needs to be taken in its execution. As a dark comedy the main characters are all flawed in some way - all of which are exposed with much drama and impact to get you thinking, how could they have survived this way for so long?

Review

The set for August: Orange County is well thought out. It is either overbearing nor underwhelming. That said all of the action takes place indoors, which can feel a little claustrophobic after a while if it weren't solid enough to hold its own. Given the 3.5 hour runtime a change in scenery would have been nice, that said the stage was maximized to its full potential.

There are those who say that the 3.5 hour runtime is too long, and that it was dragging. The show starts off slow, but it did not feel dragging at all. That said, I feel there is room for some tweaking.

Acting is one of the strongest points of the production. Repertory Philippines own Baby Barredo gives a really powerful performance, perhaps her best yet as Violet Weston. Baby's performance alone is worth the entrance fee. Outstanding.

Pinky Amador does an equally commendable job as Barbara Fordham. It would have been a very difficult role, and her emotions really shined in her performance.

Both Baby and Pinky had to deal with a numberof really tough scenes, and we were really pleased at how they turned out.

Richard Cunanan does a solid job playing Charlie Aiken. Liesl Batucan, who plays Karen Weston, is a pleasant surprise, delivering a solid performance for what would have been an otherwise mundane character in Karen Weston. Liesl made Karen interesting and watchable.

On the other hand, I personally felt that Tami Monsod and Kenneth Moraleda are miscast as Ivy Weston and Bill Fordham. This is not to say they did not give their best, only that the characters would benefit from actors that synergized better with the other cast members.

The show is Directed by Chris Millado, who does a splendid job of bringing order into the otherwise chaotic world filled with desires and broken dreams.

August: Osage County is a 3.5 hour ride filled with a lot of powerful emotions such as rage, jealousy, control, guilt, anxiety, and control. It starts off slowly and builts its way up from there. There some really powerful, action-packed scenes balanced off by a number of smaller, more melancholic ones.

August: Osage County

Plot

The action takes place over the course of several weeks in August inside the three-story home of Beverly and Violet Weston outside Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

Prologue

The play opens with Beverly Weston, a once-famous poet, interviewing Johnna, a young Native American woman, for a position as live-in cook and caregiver for his wife Violet, who is being treated for mouth cancer. Violet is addicted to several different kinds of prescription drugs and exhibits paranoia and mood swings. Beverly, who freely admits that he is an alcoholic, lightly converses about Violet's current problems, most of which Beverly concedes are the result of personal demons too powerful to be cured by drugs. Violet enters the scene clearly affected by her drugs. After an incoherent and combative argument with Beverly, Violet returns upstairs. Beverly hires Johnna, lends her a book of TS Eliot's poetry, and continues to drink.

Act one

Several weeks later. Beverly Weston has not been seen for five days. Several family members have gathered in the house to provide support for Violet including her daughter Ivy, her sister Mattie Fae and Mattie Fae's husband Charlie. When Violet is not making calls attempting to track down her husband or popping pills, she spends the time sniping at her family, particularly Ivy, whom she criticizes for her mode of dress and lack of a romantic life. The news comes that Beverly's boat is missing, ramping up the fears that he has committed suicide. Ivy's older sister Barbara arrives from Boulder, Colorado with her husband Bill and 14-year-old daughter Jean. Barbara has not visited her mother in several years, and has mixed feelings about returning to the house because of the confrontational nature of their relationship. They fall into an argument almost immediately, during which Violet accuses her of abandoning her family and breaking her father's heart.

Later in the evening, Jean bonds with Johnna after the older woman allows her to smoke some marijuana in her room. She confides to Johnna that her parents are separated and are attempting to hide the fact from the family. Bill and Barbara argue over the cause of their separation as they make a bed out of the fold-out sofa in the living room: Bill is sleeping with a much-younger woman, one of his students at the university where he teaches. At five AM, the local sheriff, Deon Gilbeau (Barbara's high school boyfriend) rings the doorbell and breaks the news that Beverly has been found drowned. Barbara goes to identify the body as Violet comes downstairs in a drug-addled fog. The act ends with her spiraling into confusion.

Act two

Several days later. The family has come from Beverly's funeral. Violet spends a quiet moment alone in Beverly's office, bitterly reproaching him for leaving her, and takes some more pills. Before the memorial dinner prepared for the family by Johnna, several family arguments and scenes arise. Ivy and Barbara's sister Karen has flown in from Florida with her new fiancé and can talk about nothing except her wedding plans, distressing Barbara. During an argument with her mother and Mattie Fae, Ivy unwittingly confesses that she is seeing someone romantically but refuses to say who. Mattie Fae and Charlie's son Little Charles has overslept and missed the funeral. His father is sympathetic but Mattie Fae is, as usual, rude to and critical of her son. Karen's fiancé Steve discovers that Jean is a pot-smoker and offers to share his stash with her, lewdly flirting with the teenaged girl. In a private moment, it is revealed that Ivy's lover is actually Little Charles, her first cousin.

Dinner is served, and Violet begins insulting and needling all of her family members. After inappropriately discussing Beverly's will at the table, she cruelly exposes Barbara and Bill's separation. When Barbara starts to fight back, Violet tauntingly reveals the full extent of her addiction, and the tensions develop into a violent confrontation, culminating in Barbara physically attacking her mother. After family members separate them, Barbara takes control of the situation, ordering that the family raid the house to discover all of Violet's hiding places for her pills.

Act three

Several hours later things have calmed down, but the pain of the dinner confrontation has not gone away. Barbara reports that Violet's doctor thinks she has brain damage, and the three sisters share a drink in their father's study, discussing their mother. Ivy reveals that she and Little Charles are planning to run away to New York, and refuses to acknowledge the need for someone to take care of Violet. She reveals that it was Violet, not Beverly, who was heartbroken when Barbara left Oklahoma. Violet enters, now more coherent and off her drugs but no less incorrigible, is resigned to dealing with her demise on her own terms. She discusses a depressing story from her childhood with her daughters. In a private moment, Barbara and Violet apologize to each other, but it is uncertain how long the peace will last.

Mattie Fae observes a tender moment between Little Charles and Ivy, and begins taunting him again when the ever-patient Charles finally loses his temper with his wife, berating her for her cruelty to her own son and promising her that unless she can find a way to be kind to Little Charles, he is going to leave her. The lecture is accidentally overheard by Barbara, who confirms when pressed that Little Charles and Ivy are lovers. She is shocked when Mattie Fae reveals that Little Charles is not just Ivy's first cousin but also her half-brother, the result of a long-ago affair between Mattie Fae and Beverly. She refuses to tell Ivy or Little Charles the truth, leaving it up to Barbara, who knows that the news will destroy Ivy, to find a way to end the incestuous affair.

Late that night, Steve and Jean share a joint, and before long, Steve attempts to molest Jean. Johnna walks in on the scene and attacks Steve with a frying pan; the noise brings Jean's parents and Karen to the scene. An ugly argument follows when Jean defensively lashes out at her parents with hurtful comments about her father's affair, and Barbara slaps her. Karen leaves with Steve, choosing to lie to herself and mistakenly blaming Jean for what happened. Bill elects to return to Boulder with Jean and admits, when Barbara confronts him, that he is not going to come back to her. He leaves as Barbara tells him she loves him.

Two weeks pass. Barbara, now drinking heavily, offers Johnna a chance to quit and leave the toxic environment of the Weston house, but she chooses to stay. Sheriff Gilbeau drops by the house with the news that Beverly had stayed at a motel shortly before he committed suicide. He and Barbara nearly share a tender moment, but she is too emotionally exhausted and drunk to consummate it.

Several days later, Ivy has dinner with Barbara and Violet. Ivy attempts to tell her mother, over Barbara's objections, of her plans with Little Charles but Violet suddenly confesses that she already knows that Little Charles is Beverly's son. Ivy recoils in shock and horror, rebuffing Barbara's attempts to comfort her, and says that she will never tell him and leaves for New York anyway. Violet calmly reveals that she has deliberately destroyed Ivy and Charles' affair, which she knew of the entire time. Barbara and her mother have one last angry confrontation during which Violet blames Barbara for her father's suicide. Violet also reveals his suicide might have been preventable since she knew which motel he stayed in the night he left the house. Barbara, realizing that her Mother has slipped beyond her help, leaves the house. Violet breaks down and is left only with Johnna, who ends the play with a quotation from a T.S. Eliot poem: "This is the way the world ends, this is the way the world ends."

Full press release follows.

Repertory Philippines proudly announces its second offering for the Season 2014 with AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama written by Tracy Letts.

The show was originally produced on August 12, 2007 by the Steppenwolf Theatre Company at the Downstairs Theatre in Chicago. Then, it conquered Broadway from October 30, 2007 until it closed June 28, 2009, after 648 performances and 18 previews. Both the Steppenwolf and Broadway productions were directed by Anna D. Shapiro.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY made its UK debut at London's National Theatre in November 2008. Consequently, many other international productions were produced in Israel, Tel Aviv, Puerto Rico, Australia, Germany, Austria, Argentina, Sweden, Peru, Spain, New Zealand, Holland, India, Poland, Netherlands.

The play is named after a poem written by Howard Starks. Of this, Tracy Letts has stated, " I could never come up with a title as brilliant as AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. Mr. Howard Starks, gentleman, teacher, poet, genius, mentor, friend, created that title for an extraordinary poem that is one of the inspirations for my play. I steal the title with deference, yet without apology – Howard, I'm sure, would have it no other way – and I dedicate this play to his memory."

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY received the Jeff Award (Chicago – 2007) for Best New Work and Best Production. These two awards were closely followed in 2008 by other six awards: Best New Play awarded by Drama Desk, Distinguished Production of a Play by Drama League, the New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award for Best Play and Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Broadway Play.

Most specially, it was also in 2008 when the play received the biggest award in the industry, the Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the TONY Award for Best Play.

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY belongs to the black comedy genre, giving it quite a darkly dimension. The action revolves around the Weston family who is forced to confront their reality both from their past and their present. The plot of August Osage County is very enjoyable and has made many people applaud the writing and directing efforts every single time the play was presented.

The plot begins in August as the action takes place over several weeks in the home of Beverly and Violet Weston in Oklahoma. Beverly is a poet and has a drinking problem while his wife suffers from mouth cancer and has become addicted to drugs. The story begins when Beverly is trying to hire a new live-in cook and caregiver for Violet.

Problems between the couple are part of the plot from the first scene when Johnna is hired. A few weeks later Beverly disappears which motivates the family to come together to look for him but only to find a few days later that he has committed suicide. Barbara and Karen, the other two daughters of Violet and Beverly, along with Ivy who lives in the house come to their father’s funeral, as does the entire family.

A series of conflicts ensue over the next several days as Violet and Barbara have never understood each other. Karen’s fiancé proves to be a pot smoker and tries to molest his soon to be niece, Ivy is planning to run away with her cousin after engaging in a romantic relationship, but he proves to be her half-brother and, at the end Violet remains alone, only with Johnna.

Chris Millado, a well-respected theater veteran and currently the Vice President and Artistic Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines will direct AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.

Co-presented by the City of Makati, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY shall runs from February 21 – March 9, 2014 at Onstage, 2/F, Greenbelt 1, Paseo de Roxas corner Legazpi St., Makati City.

Tickets are available through Ticketworld at 891-9999, or via http://www.ticketworld.com.ph/

AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is presented by special arrangement with Abrams Artists Agency. Some portions may not be suitable for children under the age of ten. Parental guidance is advised.Children under the age of four are not permitted.

See you at the theater!

Repertory Philippines contact details

Phone: 571-6926 and 571-4941
E-mail: shows at repertoryphilippines.com

The Breakdown


Story
9
Directing
9
Acting
9
Production value
8
Entertainment value
8

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