“August: Osage County” a test for stage & audience Reply

Review by Terry GaisinreviewerETG

Tracy Letts’ murky probe into family, especially inter-generational, discord is a burden for the portraying cast members and certainly for its audiences. AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is a 3¼ hour durational ordeal for an unpadded butt and a histrionic challenge for its protagonists. The extended soliloquys are repetitious and oftimes redundant; rather like the lyrics & chording of a Gordon Lightfoot composition. Unfortunately, the Dundas Little Theatre production hasn’t the option of condensing – à la ‘Readers’ Digest’ reprint.     Photo by Alexandra Pope

Elkaim,Dagenais & Silverglen - The Weston siblings

Elkaim,Dagenais & Silverglen – The Weston siblings

This heavy-handed examination into three generations of an Oklahoman clan takes place around 2007 and the suicide of the continually-inebriated pater familias. Drunken old Beverley Weston is hiring a local Cheyanne girl as caregiver for his cancer-ridden spouse. The interview is strictly one-sided and tedious, but it does allow John Hewson about 20 minutes of dialogue that sets both tone and plotline. Johnna (Alexandra Pope) gets the job!
His sister-in-law; three daughters; a grandkid, and a nephew, plus their assorted mates, inundate the un-air-conditioned household. Old enmities, rivalries and misconceptions ultimately come to a boil as the closet-skeletons emerge. Director Liz Inman utilizes a cleverly designed multi-level (7 locations) set by Peter Lloyd to evade the disruption of constant scene changing as the various sub-plots evolve. Inman’s blocking is effective and her directional timing & emphasis allows the protagonists to underscore the unsubtle comedic comments that break up the sombre mood. The cast members, especially in the more critical roles, have loquacious long-winded monologues that are as challenging as anything Shakespeare imposed on his characters. Not having seen the play previously, I can’t say if there were any slip-ups, but this production appears seamless.
There are a few outstanding representations. The role of mother/widow is nastily played by Jo Skilton. Her constant nicotine habit is only outdone by her malicious visceral stabs towards all of those within reach. I almost cheered when daughter Barbara finally hits back. Catherine Silverglen may be the physical runt of the litter but she imparts a Shaquille-ish sized portrayal of convincing rebellion. Her husband is convincing played by Dave Hill. Silverglen’s sibling ‘Ivy’ is empathetically rendered by an easily identifiable Deb Dagenais. Her version of ‘Miss Average’ will relate to everyone whose own family tree has such a persona. The other sister {Karen] is Ilene Elkaim whose desperate pursuit of happiness strikes a universal nerve.
To describe any more of the liaisons or animosities would spoil the denouement, but we must offer some caveats and even a bit of advice. Mucho caffeine for attentiveness is mandated; & a tolerance for the “F” word required. This is one X-rated 25+ evening.
Dundas remains Pawhuska ‘North’, until May 10th, and is obligatory for anyone who appreciates seeing Herculean thespian challenges surmounted.



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