Saturday, October 31, 2009

Review: August: Osage County

August: Osage County is a very good play. It won both the Pulitzer Prize and a Tony, it has received great reviews, and is the rare play with a successful national tour. The tour, staring Estelle Parsons as family matriarch Violet Weston, is really top notch. The Saturday afternoon performance I attended at the Paramount Theatre was packed (to my regret, as I had a partially obstructed view) and filled with laughter. It's cliched to say, but the 3 hour play (two intermissions!) seemed to fly by. The pacing seemed nearly perfect.

In some ways there is not really anything very special about this play. The topic--a dysfunctional family, with secretes and affairs and drug problems brought together and torn apart by some tragedy--doesn't exactly break novel ground.

But, the execution is spot on. The dialogue is snappy yet realistic enough featuring angered and hurt and vulnerable characters spewing forth the lines we wished we could ourselves say. The subject matter is rather dark, with some revelations at the end appearing without support. Despite this, the play is deeply funny without seeming cheap. A real audience-pleaser

When simply diagrammed out the plot seems one step above a sitcom. Yet it is hard to imagine a better representation of the form. This treatment of the American family and the changing of generations will be read and performed and written about for many years to come.

One can already imagine the English class essays to be written by future generations of students analyzing what this play says about the Greatest Generation, of Native American's and the white middle class of the 1990s, of parents' relationships to drugs and alcohol and their children's use of the same, of the peoples perceptions about the nature of love and affairs and sex and age and childhood, and what, exactly, it means to be from the great plains of the central United States.

The problem is not that those course essays will be written, but that they will be too easy to write. The themes and symbols and references of the play are systematically laid out for all to see without nuance or real introspection.

I'll reiterate: this play doesn't break new artistic or thematic ground. It didn't even make me think deeply about anything. But, that is ok. Better than ok, really. It is an excellently crafted example of a familiar form. Perhaps a real modern-classic. If this tour happens to be nearby then definitely go see it.

No comments:

Post a Comment