AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
By Tracy Letts
Directed by Susan Wilson
Original Music Composed by Gareth Farr
[3hrs 30 mins, incl, 2 intervals.]
at Circa One, Wellington
From 2 Apr 2011 to 7 May 2011
Reviewed by: John Smythe; Ewen Coleman (The Dominion Post); Lynn Freeman (Capital Times);
ONE FAMILY. ONE THOUSAND SECRETS.
This is a sensational play that has scooped the American Theatre awards winning five Tony's and the Pulitzer Prize. With a huge cast of 13 actors and three exhilarating action-packed acts, August: Osage County is a hugely entertaining and emotionally riveting family drama of a scale not often seen on stage.
Now, for Circa's 35th Birthday celebrations, Wellington too has the chance to enjoy this enthralling play that has taken the theatre world by storm, electrifying audiences and receiving brilliant reviews form Chicago to New York to London to Australia and beyond.
“Tracy Letts' sensationally entertaining, turbo-charged tragicomedy is flat-out, no asterisks and without qualifications, the most exciting American play Broadway has seen in years. Fiercely funny and bitingly sad … it continually keeps you hooked with shocks, surprises and delights” – New York Times
“Richly comic and exhilarating … a consistently gripping, moving and often wildly funny melodrama that keeps the audience enthralled” - Daily Telegraph (UK)
Starring Jennifer Ludlam, Ray Henwood, Michele Amas, Jane Waddell, Jeffrey Thomas, Laura Hill, Jonathon Hendry, Tina Regtien, Jason Whyte, Anya Tate-Manning, Christopher Brougham, Richard Chapman, Lauren Gibson
Outstanding veteran actress Jennifer Ludlam has returned to Wellington especially to again take on the towering role of Violet, the bitter pill-popping matriarch who is the centre of the Weston family.
It is a role that won her great acclaim and Best Actress 2010 awards from The Listener, NZ Herald and Metro Magazine's Best of Auckland for her performance in Auckland Theatre Company's production last year.
“Jennifer Ludlam as Violet Weston gives a world-class performance completely in a league of her own” – Theatre Scenes
“Superb” – NZ Herald
She is joined by a of stunning cast of award-winning favourites and new faces who are revelling in the funny, sharply scripted, badly-behaved and vividly compelling characters.
When August: Osage County opened at Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago in 2007, Tracy Letts, who is a permanent member of the company, was instantly hailed as the natural heir to Tennessee Williams, Arthur Miller, Edward Albee and Eugene O'Neill – the ‘greats' of American theatre. The play went on to become an international sensation and one of the longest running plays in Broadway history.
“Family – what else is there?” is a Sam Shepard quote that Tracy Letts likes to borrow. Letts' own family tree is part of the inspiration for the play, with his maternal grandparents being the catalyst for the characters of Violet and Beverly.
“The family is what we've got,” he says. “The family unit has evolved over a long period of time. We're biologically made of that unit, it's the best we've got, the best alternative. Families are wonderful things, but we're all flawed by design. It's interesting.”
And the fact that the play has received accolades wherever it is performed is testament to the universal appeal of this powerful work.
“Perhaps the most striking thing of all about the play is that you emerge from the theatre liking every one of the characters – in spite of everything,” says Bryan Appleyard when interviewing Letts for The Sunday Times (UK).
“It's because they are human beings. When you see their humanity fully lived in full blood, you recognise their humanity, and you like them in spite of the terrible things they do,” said Letts in reply.
Set during the sweltering late-summer heat of rural Oklahoma the extended Weston clan reluctantly return home when their father disappears. Each with his own tensions and eccentricities, and harbouring a volatile concoction of shady little secrets, the family homestead is all set to explode in a maelstrom of repressed truths and unsettling revelations.
With enough surprises to power several soap operas, August: Osage County unflinchingly and uproariously exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family. The result is at once blisteringly funny and immensely moving.
“One of the truly great nights of theatre …. a riveting three-and a half hour roller-coaster you would be mad to miss… the year's most memorable play” - Independent
“Leaves the audience buzzing with excitement” - Theatreview (Ak)
August: Osage County has three engrossing acts and two intervals and Circa has changed some of its usual start times to allow for this.
“This spectacular work is worth every minute … Don't miss it!” - Theatre People
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
2nd APRIL – 7th MAY
Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
$25 SPECIALS – Friday 1 April – 7.30pm; Sunday 3 April – 4pm
AFTER SHOW FORUM – Tuesday 5 April
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday - 6.30pm
Friday, Saturday – 7.30pm
Sunday - 4pm
Adults - $46; Concessions - $38; Friends of Circa - $33
Under 25s - $25; Groups 6+ - $39
BOOKINGS: Circa Theatre, 1 Taranaki Street, Wellington
Phone 801 7992 www.circa.co.nz
Season proudly supported by PETER & MARY BIGGS
Warning: This play contains strong language
Beverly Weston, the patriarch: RAY HENWOOD
Violet Weston, the matriarch: JENNIFER LUDLAM
Barbara Fordham, their eldest daughter: MICHELE AMAS
Bill Fordham, Barbara's husband: JONATHON HENDRY
Jean Fordham, Barbara and Bill's daughter: LAUREN GIBSON
Ivy Weston, the middle daughter: TINA REGTIEN
Karen Weston, the youngest daughter: LAURA HILL
Mattie Fay Aiken, Violet's sister: JANE WADDELL
Charlie Aiken, Mattie Fay's husband: JEFFREY THOMAS
Little Charles, Mattie Fay and Charlie's son: JASON WHYTE
Johnna Monevata, the housekeeper: ANYA TATE-MANNING
Steve Heidebrecht, Karen's fiancé: CHRISTOPHER BROUGHAM
Sheriff Deon Gilbeau: RICHARD CHAPMAN
Set Design: JOHN HODGKINS
Lighting Design: MARCUS McSHANE
Costume Design: GILLIE COXILL
Stage Manager: Eric Gardiner
Technical Operator: Deb McGuire
ASM: Ian Lesa
Fight Arranger: Allan Henry
Dialect Coach: D'Arcy Smith
Rehearsal ASM: Jonathan Power
Publicity: Claire Treloar
Graphic Design: Rose Miller
Photography: Stephen A'Court
House Manager: Suzanne Blackburn
Box Office Manager: Linda Wilson