Review by Brian Godfrey
Earlier in the year, the film version of Tracy Letts’ 2008 Pulitzer Prize winning play, August: Osage County, ‘bombed’ at the box-office. A few factors could have led to this: one – the strange, unenlightening title; two – the utter decimation of the storyline by shredding certain plot and character developments; three – Meryl Streep’s atrocious over-acting; and four – Julia Roberts brilliantly playing Julia Roberts.
The current Adelaide Rep production, with its superb ensemble and under David Sinclair’s insightful and tight direction (ably assisted by Pam O’Grady), has none of these problems (except for the title).
August: Osage County is the story of the very dysfunctional Weston family in all their alcoholic, drug-induced, pot-smoking, abusive (emotionally, physically and sexually) splendour. Letts’ comic tragedy could very well be the love-child that a coming together of Arthur Miller and Tennessee Williams may have spawned. Vitriol, bitterness, deep dark secrets and truths are flung around as if at the best of family reunions.
Along with his outstanding cast, Sinclair has nailed human frailties and peccadilloes perfectly, allowing the audience to identify humorously with, and often with repulsion at, the woeful Westons.
As matriarch, Violet, and eldest daughter, Barbara, Nikki Fort and Helen Geoffreys show Streep and Roberts how the roles should be played. Fort is spell-binding in her pill-popping ‘highs’ and ‘lows’, never over-stepping the fine line into over-acting; whilst Geoffreys’ Barbara demonstrates declining strength beautifully. Her final scenes with Fort are pure theatre magic.
These two ladies are backed by a cast that is every bit as skilled and talented: Adam Tuominen’s nicely paced maturity; Rodney Hutton’s superb oily sleaziness; Amanda Adamuszek’s taunting teen; Bronwen James’ beautiful quietness; Lisa Lacy’s nice hyper-activity; and Nic Bishop’s clever duality.
As Native-American housekeeper, Johnna, Melissa Esposito gives a very nicely understated performance, showing the only sign of normality. Ever reliable Tom Carney gives one of his best performances as down-trodden Charlie Aiken; with Sue Wylie having a ball as his hilarious harridan wife, Mattie-Fay.
Special mention must be given to Brady Lloyd who played Little Charles at the performance reviewed. Due to a family funeral, the regular actor had to fly out of the country. Lloyd took over the part at 10am on the day, never having seen or read the play before; and that night walked on stage, without a script in his hand, word and movement perfect. One would have thought he’d been in the cast from the start. This is professionalism at its best, and if there were such a thing as a medal for ‘Call Of Duty Beyond Mere Acting’, it would belong to this young man.
This August: Osage County is not a ‘bomb’ and is an extremely august production of a marvellous play. Don’t be put off by the three hour plus running time – you won’t notice it: you’ll be too captivated.