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‘August: Osage County’ at the Alliance Theatre

2011 April 28

Jill Jane Clements and Carolyn Cook; Photo: Greg Mooney

A panoply of family dysfunction  — suicide, incest and drug addiction – mixed with bitter humor, “August: Osage County” at the Alliance Theatre is riveting for the whole three hours.

Yeah, this Pulitzer Prize- and Tony Award-winning play is long – it has two intermissions – but in some ways it’s not long enough.  This story of the Weston family could keep on going and would still have me pinned to my seat.

Reminiscent of the plays of Christopher Durang, Sam Shepard at his tamest, and Eugene O’Neil, mixed with “Roseanne” at its best, playwright Tracy Letts introduces us to a household filled with verbal abuse, incest, suicide and tempestuous characters that hack at one another like chickens in a small caged pen.

Before Professor Beverly Weston (Del Hamilton) leaves his “cold blooded,” drug addicted wife, Violet (Brenda Bynum), he hires a young Cheyenne Indian woman, Johnna (Diany Rodriguez), to help care for her.

Although Beverly can’t stop drinking long enough to do his laundry, it is Violet who can barely walk or talk from taking too many prescription drugs. She teeters down the stairs, zig-zags across the floor, and knocks down a chair before she can greet Johnna.

When Beverly goes missing, Violet’s family arrives to console her: sister Mattie (Jill Jane Clements) with her husband and son; daughter Barbara Fordham (Tess Malis Kincaid) and her husband, Bill Fordham (Chris Kayser), with their 14-year-old pot-smoking daughter; single daughter Ivy Weston (Carolyn Cook); and daughter Karen Weston (Courtney Patterson) with her fiancé Steve (Joe Knezevich). Knezevich plays such a great, believable sleazeball that he’s at once despicable and likable, in the vein of Eric Roberts in “Star 80.”

Peyton Place, drama, comedy, lust and scandal.

Hear, hear, for Atlanta’s finest actors all on one stage in one helluva great play!

The stellar cast includes Andrew Benator, Richard Garner and Bart Hansard.

Written by Tracy Letts and directed by Susan V. Booth, “August Osage County” runs through May 8 at the Alliance Theatre.

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