Theatre review: E-52’s August: Osage County

August Osage County
Courtesy of E-52
E-52’s version of “August: Osage County” serves up heart-wrenching drama.


On closing night of E-52’s two week long performance of the drama, “August: Osage County,” the actors outdid themselves for a fulfilling night of heartbreak, love and shocking turns with every scene, leaving the audience gasping, crying, screaming and laughing all in the same breath.

E-52 is the university’s original student theater group since 1923. They perform three full-length productions each semester, most known for their outdoor Shakespeare performances in late spring. Over the years, they have done over 360 performances.

Originally written by Tracy Letts as a black comedy, the play won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama and the Tony Award for Best New Play. It was recreated as a movie before this university student theater group took it to the stage in Pearson Hall Saturday night.

Taking place in a small town in Oklahoma, two sisters come back to their hometown after being summoned by a third sister, who has been living at home and taking care of their parents. Their father has disappeared, leaving no trace and the girls must come home to find him.

In the opening scene, Mr. Beverly Weston sits in his study, drinking. This is the first and last the audience sees of him as he dies shortly after. The mystery behind his death and his disappearance propel the disheveled household of a mother and her three daughters into complete disarray.

Violet Weston, the mother who was played by alumna Corinne McMahon, has been diagnosed with mouth cancer but won’t stop smoking. She is addicted to painkillers and other prescription drugs, which leads to many arguments within the household.

The most dramatic and heart-wrenching scene is when all the sisters and their husbands or fiancés are sitting around the dinner table after their father’s funeral. At this moment, one of the sister’s, Barbara, played by junior Eileen O’Connor, realizes Violet is on drugs and tries to pry the bottles from her.

Violet lunges at the people around the table, screaming about her abusive childhood, yelling at her daughters and telling them they’re worthless, selfish and ugly. Barbara then demands the pill bottles and a fight breaks out, ending with Barbara tackling Violet and banging her head against the floor in order to get the drugs.

This scene, which stunned at the audience so much they nearly forgot to clap at its completion, is the turning point for a series of other dramatic changes within the household.

Other sister, Ivy, played by junior Madie Buiano finds out the cousin she’s been having a relationship with is really her brother. Karen, played by junior Blair Sabol, is faced with the controversy that her fiancé has just assaulted her niece, Barbara’s daughter.

The play is not for the faint of heart, with cursing in every point of dialogue, yelling and crude gestures, alcohol and sex consistently having key parts in the sequence of events. But within the hardships, there are small bouts of humor and nostalgia of growing up in a small town.

E-52 performed with integrity and understanding for each of these characters, as seen by their convincing monologues of divorce and their equally convincing midwestern accents. The whole cast created an aura of desperation and loneliness, but left small moments of joy for the audience to applaud.

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