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  • Writer's pictureKimberly Laberge

Southern tragedy strikes at a local venue in August: Osage County

Between a Pulitzer Prize winning script, masterful direction, and honest acting, the company of August: Osage County brings to life a heart wrenching story of the raw inner workings of family life.

The show opens with the suicide of Beverly Weston, leaving behind his drug-addicted wife, Violet, and a large extended family to clean up the pieces. As the three acts unravel, loves, lies, and lusts are revealed through fragments of conversation hushed between forced smiles. The chemistry between each pairing of actors keeps the quips hot and the tension high. Strengthening the company is Miranda Hawk, in the role of Violet’s daughter, Barbara Fordham. Hawk introduces her character as a hardened, exhausted mother going through a nasty divorce. However, as the stress increases between herself and all she reaches, Hawk reaches profound depths of desperation. Seeing the parallels build between Barbara and Violet is as captivating as it is painful.

One of the most intriguing roles in this soap is Johnna Monevata, played by Gina M. Gomez. Johnna is brought on in the first scene as the only character not in the family, but instead as the 'help'. She quietly observes the onset of disaster, with little power to delay or avoid it. Gomez brings a silent power to the stage, and while a dozen characters may be yelling at once, the eye is drawn to the stillness of Gomez, trapped in a passive state. The audience empathizes with her place, similarly witnessing all sorts of fits of passion with little to do about it.

The attention to detail in set and lighting, by Dan Myers and Steven M. Peterson (respectively), is breathtaking. Characters make reference to Violet’s habit of boarding the windows, as an act of isolation from the outside world. Yet, this simple detail, in the half formed scene of a house, is absolutely stunning. The “sunlight” coming from beyond gives a glimpse of what the Weston family might be missing, in being entirely absorbed in their own disputes.

If community theatre can have the effect of seeming low budget, or sub-par, August: Osage County rebrands the gift of amateur theatrics, by bringing professional level talent to the Bartell Theater in Madison. Not an element goes amiss in the telling of a this modern tragedy.

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