Reviewed by Lesley Reed

June 2014

Adelaide Repertory Theatre’s production of Tracy Letts’ epic play, August: Osage County is wonderful. Directed by David Sinclair, the sublimely talented cast perform as an excellent ensemble in this darkly comic but tragically real drama.

 The play is the story of a dysfunctional mid-western American family that, when forced to gather together following the disappearance of alcoholic patriarch Beverley Weston, completes the familial disintegration by exposing long-held secrets, lies and deceptions. Chief among the protagonists are the women of the family, including Beverley’s drug-addicted and caustic-tongued wife Violet and her three strong-willed daughters, Barbara, Ivy and Karen.

Nikki Fort embodies Violet, the cigarette-smoking, pill-popping matriarch. Fort takes care not to overplay Violet and in doing so, gives a memorable performance.

Threatening to steal every scene she’s in, Sue Wylie is hysterically funny as Mattie-Fae, Violet’s loud and insensitive sister. 

Helen Geoffreys is superb as Violet’s eldest daughter Barbara. Her fine performance grows the character, layer by layer, until when taking charge of the dysfunctional household, we see Barbara’s likeness to her mother shine starkly through.

The middle one amongst Violet’s daughters, Ivy is desperate for a life of her own, just as her sisters have had.  Bronwen James is poignantly real and beautifully controlled in the role. 

Lisa Lacy is very good as the shallow, self-absorbed youngest daughter Karen and Amanda Adamuszek is a typical rebellious teenager as Violet’s granddaughter Jean.

Performed by Tom Carney, Adam Tuominen, Rodney Hutton, Alan Fitzpatrick and Nicholas Bishop, the male characters of August: Osage County are very well-acted, all of them providing terrific contrasts and foils to the strong-willed women.    

Melissa Esposito, as Violet’s young native-American housekeeper, plays her as a very normal person quietly observing a household of damaged souls; a very good performance.  

August: Osage County is a very long play. On opening night the first act took a while to gain momentum, but the second and third acts were wonderful. The dinner scene was one of the best-directed pieces of theatre I’ve seen on the amateur stage. 

Forget the critically panned movie version of August: Osage County; the original play is Pulitzer-Prize-winning.  Who knows, the Adelaide Repertory Theatre’s production may well have set a high bar for Adelaide’s awards too. 

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