Bayside High School, Grade 12
Have you ever seen a family so torn that they cannot show compassion for one another even after experiencing a loss? Sure, all of us have been in the middle of a heated family argument at least once, especially during large gatherings. But to witness the Westons, the family that is the subject of Tracy Letts' new Broadway play August: Osage County, is quite an experience: With all the members detached from each other from an early point in their lives, the family is ripping at the seams, and when true tragedy strikes, it simply falls apart. In short, the dramatic antics of the Westons of Osage will blow your mind.
This is a mind-boggling and intense play about filial piety gone incredibly wrong. Beverly Weston, husband to Violet, and father to Barbara, Ivy, and Karen, disappears after hiring a young Native American, Johnna Monevata, as caretaker of his household, then consisting of only his wife and him. After his mysterious disappearance, all the family comes together to help Violet, a raving alcoholic, cope. Ivy, the youngest daughter, lives nearest and arrives first, and is there to meet her arriving aunt and uncle, Mattie Fae and Charlie Aiken. Their conversations are initially warm but soon spiral outward and reveal problems that have been buried alive in this barren Oklahoma household. Ivy, the youngest, is said to be in her 40s, so don't be alarmed if you assume at first that she's a teenager. This is but one of the interesting facets of August: Osage County: Ivy is still the baby of the house, and appears so in her apparent innocence.
When Barbara arrives with her family, she hides her separation from her husband, due to his fondness for younger women. But Mother knows all, and Violet soon exposes, unnervingly, that nothing really escapes her attention. Meanwhile, Barbara's teenage daughter, Jean, would rather smoke and watch The Phantom Of The Opera on TV than attend her grandfather's funeral.
Indeed, Beverly is found to be dead fairly early in the play, but the family conflicts escalate as more members and characters--Little Charles, Karen, her fiancé Steve, and Sheriff Deon--enter and heighten the already attentive senses of both the characters and the audience. Everyone seems to have issues deep within their souls, most of which lead back to Violet. Indeed, she is a character viewers will grow to despise as the play progresses, as more stories of the past unravel, secrets unfold, and the intrigue mounts.
The ending seems like sort of a cliffhanger, but it's fair to assume that nothing much good comes for anyone in this depressed and desperate family--nothing of any permanence at least. Each member of the family has already sought his or her havens and temporary highs; they're all very selfish people, but none has anything good or lasting to hold on to. In this tale of heroes and monsters, the only hero is also the most silent of them all, Johnna--the girl who never really interferes in this family, but is somehow the one to keep them together as long as they could be kept.
The twists and turns in the plot keep you wide awake and at the edge of your seat, and while the conflicts are certainly not funny, often the audience can't help but laugh. This is not a heartwarming tale, but it does evoke compassion and sympathy. It's really a very saddening and a serious affair. It's a long play but not boring. For me, the only flaw was in the very first act, where I found it hard to follow the story that Beverly narrates. But it's not long before I was caught up in this family drama. August: Osage County is the kind of the show that is sure to leave a mark.
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