August: Osage County Review - Simply Compelling!

Nothing can quite compare to the riveting drama in August: Osage County. Never before have I seen a performance so packed with raw emotion. Even in its over three hour-long duration, my attention never for a second wavered from the commotion on stage. Watching a group of such talented and highly acclaimed actors as those of The Weston Family is a rare privilege and it is no wonder that critics have hailed August: Osage County one of the new must see plays of all time. 

Family Dinner

“Directed by 2008 Tony Award Winner Anna Shapiro, August: Osage County is nominated for seven Tony Awards and winning five, including Tony Awards for Best Play and Best Director, along with Drama Desk, Outer Critics Circle, and New York Drama Critics Circle Awards, including Best Play, Best Director and Best Scenic Design, August: Osage County opened at the Imperial Theatre Broadway on December 4, 2007, to wide critical acclaim. The New York Times called August: Osage County “the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen in years” and it was voted the #1 Play of the Year by Time, The Associated Press, Entertainment Weekly and TimeOut New York. After a sold out engagement at The Imperial Theatre, the show reopened at The Music Box Theatre on April 29th 2008 and reached its 600th performance on May 29, 2009.  Most recently, it broke more records when it surpassed two long running Tony Award winning hits: A Man For All Seasons when it reached its 638th performance on June 4, 2009 and Auntie Mame when it reached its 640th performance on June 6, 2009.”

Before it was a hit on stage, August: Osage County was a novel by Tracy Letts. In addition to a playwright, his is also an accomplished actor. He has been a member of the Steppenwolf ensemble since 2002 and has appeared in Betrayal, The Pillowman, Last of the Boys, The Pain and the Itch, The Dresser, Homebody/ Kaboul, The Dazzle and The Glass Menagerie, among many others. He is also the author of Superior Donuts and Man From Nebraska. Writing here from his personal experiences, August: Osage Country is a fictional portrayal of his own family growing up in the Midwest. Letts tells the story of The Weston’s, a highly dysfunctional clan summoned together for an impromptu reunion at the news of their father’s sudden  disappearance. 

Cochran, Still and Parsons

The stage is set in a small town outside Tulsa, Oklahoma at the large family home owned by the Weston’s. The scenery does not change throughout the show, somewhat a la Thorton Wilder’s Our Town. The beautiful country house is brought to life by set designer and Yale Drama School graduate  Todd Rosenthal, a regular designer at both The Goodman and Steppenwolf theatres. Rosenthal is a 2008 Tony Award, 2009 Lawrence Oliver Award and 2009 Michael Merritt Award Winner and is an Associate Professor at Northwestern University.

The Weston Home

The show opens with a monologue by Beverly Weston (Jon DeVries), patriarch and self proclaimed alcoholic. He is speaking with whom he has hired, Johnna Monevata (DeLanna Studi), a Cheyenne woman in her twenties, to watch over his ailing wife. DeVries exhibits an unadulterated passion for his family and leaves a huge impact on the audience, even after his short time on stage. As his counterpart is headliner Estelle Parsons as Violet Weston, the family matriarch. Wily and headstrong, Violet claims to know all of the family’s many secrets, but at the same time is completely oblivious, seeing as she is highly addicted to prescription drugs. Parsons grabs the audience with her every shrewd, insensitive and usually utterly hilarious word.  The New York Times praised, “ Estelle Parsons gives a superb performance…sends chills down your spine. May prove to be a crowning moment in her illustrious career”. As for that career, her resume holds no small accomplishment. She was an original member on the NBC Today Show and was the first woman to do news reporting for a television network. Parsons is a member of the Theatre Hall of Fame and is the recipient of an Academy Award for her work in Bonnie and Clyde and was also nominated for her performance in Rachel, Rachel. She has many times been Tony nominated for her work in The Seven Descendants of Myrtle, Miss Reardon Drinks a Little, Morning’s at Seven and others. Her television credits include a ten-year run on the popular comedy Rosanne as well as starring in Empire Falls and The UFO Incident. Parsons second to none depiction of Violet as she spirals further into the oblivion of her drug abuse is sure to astound and will leave you absolutely breathless. 

Parsons and Cochran

Weston Sisters and Violet Parsons, Torn, Warren and Cochran

Shannon Cochran (Barbara Fordham), Angelica Torn (Ivy Weston) and Amy Warren (Karen Weston) take on the roles of the Weston daughters. As the eldest sister, Barbara struggles with marriage and motherhood, and is now burdened with the news of her father’s disappearance and in turn realizes how severe her mother’s addiction has become. It is in the midst of her own excess of domestic issues that she figuratively “morphs” into her resented mother, embodying every characteristic that she has always reviled about her. Cochran plays this part extraordinarily. Her pain and anxiety toward her unfaithful husband, Bill (Jeff Still) and rebellious teenaged daughter Jean (Emily Kinny) are inherently apparent to the audience and pulls one even further into the abyss of Weston Family drama. In addition to August: Osage County, Cochran has appeared in two other Letts plays and on hit shows Grey’s Anatomy and The Office.

Angelica Torn, Estelle Parsons and Libby George

Angelica Torn. Libby George as Mattie Fae Aiken, Violet's sister and Paul Vincent O'Connor as her husband, Charlie Aiken

Ivy Weston (Angelica Torn), the middle sister, has never left home to build a life of her own. She works as a school teacher and is bitter towards Barbara and Karen for leaving her alone with their complicated parents. Determined to break from the mold of caretaker, Ivy announces that she is finally going to move away and marry the love of her life: her cousin Little Charles Aiken (Steve Key). Ivy’s even-tempered disposition doesn’t last until the end of the show, as she finally declares that she doesn’t care what people think of her decisions, in a heated debate with Barbara in the last scene. No stranger to family drama, Torn has appeared on HBO’s hugely popular The Sopranos and has starred in Tony Award winning plays including Sideman and Anna Christie. Actress Amy Warren plays Karen Weston, the desperate sister soon to be married after years of looking for the right man. However, her fiancé Steve (Laurence Lau) is far from what she perceives, after he his exposed as a pedophile, preying on fourteen year old Jean

August: Osage County is absolutely spellbinding and will captivate you from start to finish. Don’t miss out on this soon to be American classic.

August: Osage County is part of the 2010 Broadway In Chicago Season Subscription Series. Individual tickets are $25-$80 and are available at all Broadway in Chicago Box Offices (24 W. Randolph St., 151 W. Randolph St., and 18 W. Monroe St.); the Broadway In Chicago Ticket Line at (800) 775-2000; all Ticketmaster retail locations (including Hot Tix and select Carson Pirie Scott, Coconuts and fye stores); and online at

Tickets are available for groups of 15 or more by calling (312) 977-1710.

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