“August: Osage County” which opened last weekend at Community Players, is a searing look into a family plagued by alcoholism, drug addiction, and cruelty, but somehow is also surprisingly funny at times (in a laughter through tears kind of way). This “gallows humor” prevails because of the profound skill and level of pathos that the actors bring to their all-too-humanly-flawed characters.
The play begins with the patriarch of the Weston family, Beverly, interviewing a young Native American woman, Johnna, for the position of caretaker for his home and his wife, Violet, who has oral cancer.
Johnna, delicately played by Connie Blick, is hired, and becomes witness to the tragic events that ensue. Beverly, portrayed by Alan Wilson in a performance that sets the tone for this entire sterling production, suddenly disappears.
The three Weston daughters, along with their own families, and Violet’s sister, Mattie Faye and her husband, Charlie, descend upon the family homestead to wait to learn about the whereabouts of Beverly, only to hear from the local sheriff that he has been found dead.
Much is revealed at the funeral dinner for Beverly: Violet has a roaring substance abuse problem, marriages are shattered, and lonely desperation has led to some unseemly romantic alliances. To say that the Westons are not kind to each other is a gross understatement.
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Director John D. Poling has done a stupendous job in his directorial debut at Players. He sensitively guides the actors through this emotional minefield.
Lighting and sound effects designer Dan Virtue selected perfect music to connect and punctuate each scene as they flow seamlessly from one to the next.
In a drama this finely executed, it’s difficult to single out cast members for a job well done. This is ensemble acting at its finest, and everyone is at the top of their game.
However, it would be remiss not to give shout-outs to Abby Scott as Barbara (Violet and Beverly’s daughter), and to Kevin Yale Vernon as Violet. Vernon’s is a tour-de-force, worth-the-price-of-admission performance that will break your heart and set your teeth on edge.