There may not be another 3-1/2-hour play that says as much about contemporary family life, and says it with such gritty realism, as Tracy Letts' explosive, hilarious August: Osage County. Director René Moreno's fine production up at Addison's WaterTower Theatre winds up its three-week run April 22. It's a chance to see many of Dallas' best professional stage actors together in one of American theater's best plays. (It won the Tony and the Pulitzer, if you need proof.)
Gird your loins for the Westons of northern Oklahoma. They come together after the disappearance of their elderly, alcoholic poet-patriarch (played by Cliff Stephens, who has one amazing scene at the top of the play). As the daughters and cousins arrive at the three-story prairie house, with husbands, a fiance (Chris Hury), a nymphet daughter (Ruby Westfall) and years of resentments as extra baggage, tensions build. "This situation is fraught!" yells frowsy Aunt Mattie Faye (the wildly funny Nancy Sherrard). She's a browbeater, constantly uttering putdowns of husband Charlie (Tom Lenaghen) and son Little Charlies (Clay Yocum). Her comeuppance is a highlight of the third act.
The source of fraught-itude is matriarch Violet (Pam Dougherty), suffering from mouth cancer and stuffing her gullet with a variety of prescription painkillers. She's mean and verbally unedited, delivering ugly home truths at the dinner table as casually as passing the gravy. It's left to oldest daughter Barbara (Sherry Jo Ward, giving a galvanic performance) to take the reins of the family's runaway emotions. She suffers a breakdown and dumps her husband (James Crawford) in the process.
Dealing with suicide, addictions, infidelity, pedophilia and incest, the extended Weston family has quite a reunion in this epic play. After seeing what they go through, Thanksgiving at your house will be a snap.
August: Osage County continues through April 22 at WaterTower Theatre, Addison Theatre Centre. Call 972-450-6232.
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