Playwright Tracy Letts won the Pulitzer Prize for his blistering August: Osage County, a family drama laced with the kind of deep, dark humor that comes from people who've learned from birth how to push each other's buttons. August:Osage County pushed a few buttons of its own; after its premiere at Chicago's Steppenwolf Theater, it went to Broadway where it picked up five Tony Awards, including Best Play, and then made it to the big screen, with a star-studded cast that included Meryl Streep as Violet, the take-no-prisoners matriarch of the Weston clan, Sam Shepard as missing patriarch Beverly Weston, and Julia Roberts as their oldest daughter Barbara.
Since it first lit up the stage, August: Osage County has been quite popular, with theaters across the country anxious to dive into this story of three generations of family dysfunction. There are all kinds of good roles for actors to get their teeth into, and the three-story home that houses the disparate members of the Weston family and their in-laws, plus a Native American caregiver, a local sheriff, and an extra fiancé, is almost a character of its own. Although many theaters just don't have room for that much real estate, it doesn't stop smaller theaters, like the Station in Urbana, from getting creative. As it happens, August: Osage County is currently playing in those cozy confines, in a production directed by Mathew Green.
At Community Players Theatre, where the play opens this week, scenic designer Jeremy Stiller has a more expansive space to work with, and he's just the kind of designer who will make good use of it. Director John D. Poling is at the helm with a cast that includes Kevin Yale Vernon as viper-tongued Violet, Alan Wilson as her husband Beverly, and Abby Scott, Michelle Woody and Wendy Baugh as their daughters Barbara, Ivy and Karen. Len Childers appears as Barbara's estranged husband, who has left her for a younger woman, with Hannah Blumenshine as their teenage daughter, Brett Cottone as Sheriff Gilbeau, who dated Barbara when they were young, and John Bowen as Steve, Karen's shady fiancé. In another family unit, Anne Cook will play Mattie Fae, Violet's sister, with Randy Offner and Nathan Brandon Gaik as her husband and son. Connie Blick takes on the role of the Native American housekeeper who sees a lot more than is probably healthy.
This is not a sweet or gentle piece of work and you are advised that it contains adult language and situations. Community Players is asking for mature audiences only to attend this production.
August: Osage County opens at Community Players with a preview performance at 7:30 pm on May 3, with evening performances to follow at 7:30 pm on May 4 and 5 and 11 and 12, and Sunday matinees at 2:30 pm on May 6 and 13. For more information, click here. If you are ready to buy tickets, you can do that here.