If there is a theatrical bone in your body, you have certainly heard of the Pulitzer Prize winning play August: Osage County by acclaimed playwright Tracy Letts. And if the play doesn’t ring a bell, the movie of the same name, starring Julia Roberts and Meryl Strep, hopefully comes to mind. The brilliance of this play is evident from the fact that it did win the Pulitzer, and it pulled two of the biggest box office stars in the world to inhabit the main characters. This is a beautiful piece of theatre. So, it is no wonder that Director Martin Friedman jumped at the chance to put up this complicated dysfunctional fascinating piece. And, it is no wonder why Anne McEvoy is cast as Violet Weston. She leads this performance with intelligence, grit, and amazing depth and cynicism. And beside her is Diane Mull as Barbara Fordham, Violet’s oldest daughter, who bring her own brand of angst and brilliant execution to the stage.
The story is set on the plains of modern day, middle-class Oklahoma, in a large country home outside Pawhuska. The Weston family members are all intelligent, sensitive creatures who have the uncanny ability of making each other absolutely miserable. When the patriarch of the household mysteriously vanishes, the Weston clans gathers together to simultaneously support and attack one another. Grief turns into anger and projections of guilt, as each member of this family deals with naked truths and harsh reality.
The play is beautifully directed by Martin Friedman. He has assembled a fantastic league of actors to rock this house of emotional horrors. Staging is smooth and coherent, and provides an appealing canvas. He guides his actors with intellectual support, and lets the action take its seemingly fresh approach. Set and Light Design is top notch. Keith Nagy is a master of turning the stage into a feast for the eye. Costume Design by Tesia Benson was on target. Sound Design by R. Eric Simna was clear and crisp. Production Stage Manager Nichole Vencl called a great show.
The cast reminds me of showing up at a pot luck dinner, and realizing that every dish that was brought, is absolutely delicious. The program states “Featuring” Anne McEvoy. It should. As described earlier, she is the main dish and is most fantabulous. Robert Abelman playing her husband Beverly Weston “human cactus”, sets the play rolling with a profound and subtle performance. Quietly laying the first pieces of the puzzle on the floor, for the rest to complete. Enter Diane Mull and Andrew Narten, playing Barbara and Bill Fordham. At this point, I just wanted to yell “Hold your cards please, we have a bingo!” The reason being that these two are fantastic actors who bring their unique skills to the table. Mull navigates through this emotional maze with deft choices and engaging delivery. Narten is a master of non-verbal communication. Watching his character process what has been said to him, or what is observes, is superb. Natalie Welch as their daughter Jean Fordham, does a wonderful job of playing the teenage angst, while underscoring her character with mischief, and coping skills. Her nighttime scene was handled beautifully.
Courtney Nicole Auman and Jeremy Jenkins, as Ivy Weston and Little Charles Aiken are great. Auman delivering more layers than lasagna. So many textured moments to enjoy. Jenkins projecting an innocence that is radiant, which enables heartache even more. Debbie Jenkins and Aaron Elersich, as Karen Weston and her fiancé Steve Heidebrecht, are engaging as well. Jenkins bringing her naivety and sweet charm, while deftly masking the truth. Elersich creates a likable character, and then with uncomfortable and controlled execution, gives you reason to want to make him a target on a gun range.
Jeffrey Glover and Rose Leninger, as Charlie and Mattie Fae Aiken, are certainly gifts to this production. Both of them bring such honesty to their characters. There is never a false moment, and luckily they get to bring some cheerfulness to this beleaguered bunch, and the audience. They both deliver beautiful scenes of clarity, especially Glover with his son, and when Leninger shares a devastating truth. Caitlin Post as Johnna Monevata, and Michael Vitovich as Sheriff Deon Gilbeau, both deliver the goods. Monevata provides a gentle calming presence, but fearless backbone. Gilbeau brings a simple compassionate charm to his character.
It is a grand evening to watch some great actors serve up a fantastic meal.
$7-$13 General Admission
Lakeland Civic Theatre
7700 Clocktower Drive
Kirtland, OH 44094