March 1, 2014
Theatre in the Grove
Forest Grove, OR
August: Osage County is not an easy play. It is not easy for either the production or the audience. That being said, it is awesome.
I had the opportunity to experience Theatre in the Grove’s production the other night and was both impressed and a bit exhausted after. Yes, it is a three hour play and that can be tiring, but it was the family drama and the performances and how locked in I got that was tiring, not the run time. The cast is very much all in on the material, which is necessary, but also risky as it is easy for it to become heavy handed melodrama if handled poorly. It is handled well.
Family drama is the worst as it can linger and fade and come roaring back at the slightest provocation. Family members will keep distance or even move away as a result of ongoing drama. This often only delays or defers the inevitable in the event it comes to a head over other issues or tragedies. The family In August: Osage County is not merely dysfunctional it is flat out broken. Time and distance have not changed anything and when a terrible event brings them all back together it is only a matter of time until old issues become immediate problems.
The lead roles in Theatre in the Grove’s production are excellent. Part of what makes this play so difficult is that it hits so close to home and the actors bring what could be mere archetypes to life as genuine people that at times one feels sympathy for and others one simply wants to slap. Supporting cast members get meaty moments and come through. In a three hour play without a large cast there is plenty of stage time for many of the actors to be temporary focal points. They held my attention.
Yes, the first act seems long, but not long in the sense that it drags. By the second intermission I had picked up many different threads and genuinely wanted to see how these people came through, or not.
I am glad that I really did not know much about this play prior to seeing it, although I was warned about length and that it would be R Rated. The recent film version was not something I was familiar with. As a result I was getting a first account of this family through the play. The material was fresh to me and I really found myself locked in and trying to sort out in my own mind what was likely to happen. The material is not predictable in that the end results are not always obvious or the safe way out dramatically. Bad things happen.