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Friday, October 23, 2009
August: Osage County
August: Osage County is one of those stage dramas that centers around a family quickly tearing itself apart. Everyone stomps around a living room while revealing terrible secrets about one another, much in the vein of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? or Death of a Salesman. After three hours of bickering and venom-filled remarks, one by one, the characters all storm off into the night in separate directions. You know you're in for a grim trip to the theater when a character coughs up a T.S. Elliot quote within the first five minutes and throws themselves in a lake shortly thereafter.
I saw the touring production at the Keller a few nights back. The play follows the bitter squabbles of the Weston family in the days after the death of their professorial patriarch. The mother, played by Estelle Parsons (AKA Roseanne's mom on Roseanne), is addicted to pills and her three daughters are equally troubled. Drug addiction, alcoholism, suicide, dysfunction, sexual harassment, pedophilia, aging, racism, incest, infidelity, loneliness, depression, underage exposure to the Turner Classic Movie channel...there doesn't seem to be a domestic problem the Westons aren't saddled with.
August is good for what it is, and worthy of its Tony award for the sharp-as-a-samurai-sword dialog, but it's nothing new or original. At the very least, I'll never be able to hear Eric Clapton's "Lay Down Sally" again without flashing back to the play.
It should come as no surprise that August ends with another Elliot quote, a particularly nasty one, sung over and over again in a lullaby. The quote smacks the audience upside the head hard and I think it's too vicious to lay on them after an evening of ugliness. I think another quote by a different canonized author would have been more befitting. I would have gone with this age-old chestnut from Kurt Vonnegut....
"There's only one rule that I know of, babies— God damn it, you've got to be kind."
August: Osage County continues through October 25th at the Keller Auditorium. Tickets and further info can be found here.