Welcome to 'Osage County'

Dark comedy dives into family dysfunction
By Mary Ann Enloe | Nov 11, 2012
Photo by: Ron Frendreis

HART closes its regular 2012 main stage season with a humdinger of an homage to dysfunctional families everywhere. "August: Osage County" is black comedy at its darkest, and audiences have loved Tracy Letts' off-kilter Pulitzer prize winner since its opening on Broadway in 2008.

"We're not here to do 'The Sound of Music' every time," said HART's executive director Steven Lloyd after Saturday night's performance of the Tony winner.

Lloyd directed "A: OC." Women dominate the large cast and veteran actress Barbara Bates Smith of Haywood County dominates the women. As Violet, the prescription-drug-addicted matriarch of this hodgepodge of misfits, she is breathtaking. Violet's poet-husband, played brilliantly by David Spivey, paints the first dark stroke as the curtain opens: "She takes pills, I drink. It's our arrangement," he shrugs as he explains to the new caretaker Johnna what her job will be.

In a pivotal role by HART newcomer Farah Mokhtareizadeh, Johnna, Violet's "Indian in the attic," is the safety pin that holds this wretched lot together. After Violet's husband disappears, their three daughters show up and reinforce the reality that sibling rivalry doesn't end with puberty. Sometimes it just doesn't end. Also, daughters don't always outgrow their need to fight with their mother.  Julie Kinter as Barbara, Christy Bishop as Ivy and Jennifer Riddle as Karen are splendidly off-center as the skewed sisters.

Lloyd's always-perfect casting is spot on. HART veteran Allison Stinson is Mattie Fae who spills the beans on the family's darkest secret which her sister Violet admits she knew all the time. Carl Bredahl, Jeremy Bridges, Kathryn Vish Wells, Tom Dewees,Scott Edward and Ricky Sanford complete the stellar ensemble.

Expect constant foul language and dismiss it. Author Letts infuses this upper-middle-class family with a propensity for the "F" word. After the initial shock of hearing Barbara Bates Smith say it the first time, followed by everyone else chiming in at various decibels, they might as well be saying "apple butter."

People who have dealt with addiction and suicide in their families know that a macabre sense of humor is as necessary as air to their lungs while they stumble through those dark dances. The Westons of Osage County know it too. Letts' lines are crisp and cutting and this cast delivers them perfectly.

"August: Osage County" is different. As someone said after the show, "Imagine seeing something this avant garde in a conservative little town like Waynesville."

Indeed. Give it a try. It's excellent theater. You'll recognize folks you've known, you'll laugh whether you want to or not, and you'll come away thinking your family's not so bad after all.

"Osage County" wrap up its run this week, with shows at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and at 3 p.m. Sunday, all at HART, 250 Pigeon St., Waynesville. For tickets, call 456-6322 or visit www.harttheatre.com.