Friday, January 25, 2008

Intermission Talk... August: Osage County

If it feels like you’re in familiar territory when you visit Osage County, it may be because the emotional terrain has been on your dramatic itinerary in past. Tracy Letts’ magnum opus [so far], August: Osage County, recalls previous American theatrical epics with the same basic backstory element: a slightly larger-than-life paternal figure and his progeny, who struggle to fill those shoes, or run away from them. This is Big Daddy, and his Brick and Gooper, James Tyrone and his Jamie and Edmund, and even Daddy and his neglected Martha. Letts’ trajectory is pretty much the same: despair, reaction and resignation, in this case, the final moment provided by an American Indian housekeeper. His Weston clan family reunion, which he precipitates by going missing, is a barefoot walk over hot coals and broken glass, each step searing or slicing open yet another wound, new or revisited. Anna D. Shapiro’s fluid cinematic direction makes this trek bearable, and even voyeuristically thrilling. And if you want to understand better what distinguishes Osage County, Oklahoma from the Mississippi Delta, coastal Connecticut or a New England campus, check out the 1931 Best Picture Oscar-winner “Cimmaron,” adapted by Howard Estabrook from Edna Ferber’s era-spanning novel. It covers the rough settlement days of the Oklahoma Territory from 1895 to 1915, and Irene Dunne displays the grit and ferocity that the Weston women tap into, tempered by the unforgiving Plains that beat you up and tear you down, if you let them. Skip the 1960 remake. Dunne did it best.
-- Tony Vellela
(Acknowledgement: these are the opinions those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Drama Book Shop.)
August: Osage County, TCG, 2/2008. Paper, $13.95, is currently available from the Drama Book Shop. 800 322-059.

Visit the official August: Osage County website

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