Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Actors, Playhouse: August: Osage County (7 reviews)

Actors' Playhouse opened its production of Tracy Lett's August: Osage County at the Miracle Theater on March 11, 2011.
It is August in Oklahoma and an alcoholic father has gone missing, a mother is caught in the grip of addiction, a marriage has come undone, a romance is brewing and a lie has been uncovered. Meet the Westons, a family of unforgettable characters approaching a total meltdown. Ask anyone who’s seen it and he or she’ll tell you – August: Osage County is one of the most unforgettable evenings you will ever spend at the theatre. Every night, gasps reverberate throughout the theatre as each new bombshell is dropped in this hilarious and stinging look at an American family in crisis.
David Arisco directed a cast that included Annette Miller, Dennis Creaghan, Barbara Bradshaw, Erik Fabregat, Jackie Rivera, Stephine G. Anthony, Laura Turnbull, Greg Weiner, Peter Haig, David Kwiat, Cecilia Isis Torres, Kathryn Lee Johnston, and Amy McKenna.

Hap Erstein reviewed for Palm Beach ArtsPaper:
...‬a script of this magnitude is not an easy matter to produce,‭ ‬let alone for a company like Actors‭’ ‬Playhouse of Coral Gables,‭ ‬whose strength is musical theater.‭ ‬Yet Letts‭’ ‬play has obviously gotten the creative juices of director David Arisco flowing and the material has attracted some of the region’s finest acting talent.‭ ‬The result is a production that is likely to be a landmark of South Florida theater for years to come.
Annette Miller...‭ ‬dominates the evening as sharp-tongued Violet...‭ ‬Barbara‭ (‬a steely Laura Turnbull‭)‬,‭ ‬pulls an Alexander Haig and declares herself in charge of the calamitous situation.‭
John Thomason reviewed for Boca Magazine:
Then there are shows like “August: Osage County” at Actors’ Playhouse – that rare show of such exquisite perfection that it sets a new standard to which every show to come out for the rest of the year should aspire.
David Arisco’s staging offers a feast for the eyes in just about every quadrant of the set. Rather than freezing his inactive cast members in time, as most productions do, Arisco has them continue living in the house’s many rooms, even when they’re not the subjects of the given scene’s dialogue.
Miller is outstanding in the play’s only leading role, slurring her words with drugged conviction, channeling some of the disturbed spontaneity of Gena Rowlands in A Woman Under the Influence. The local ensemble keeps pace with her every step of the way, and the standouts include Laura Turnbull as Violet’s micromanaging daughter Barbara; Barbara Bradshaw as Violet’s bombshell-dropping sister Mattie Fae; and Stephen G. Anthony as the creepy, pedophilic fiancĂ©e to Violet’s daughter Karen (Amy McKenna).
Roger Martin reviewed for Miami ArtZine:
If I should bump into you on the street and you tell me you still haven't seen August: Osage County at The Actors' Playhouse then shame on you. If you love good theatre you owe it to yourself to jump into this pool of drugs, alcohol, sex, incest, child molestation, death and snide humor now flooding the massive on-stage homestead of the Weston family. 
An entirely excellent cast with Annette Miller and Laura Turnbull as the absolute standouts.

Sean McClelland is responsible for the tremendous three-story house that these characters rocket around in, bedeviling and berating each other, lying, taunting, whining, fondling, abusing and generally having one hell of a time.
John Lariviere reviewed for Talkin' Broadway:
The remarkable set for this production of August: Osage County by Sean McClelland seems nearly impossible. He has fit three detailed, functional stories of a house on the Actors Playhouse stage, with clear views from nearly every angle. Lighting and sound accommodate the set and the large cast flawlessly.
Annette Miller is brilliant as Violet—mercurially venomous and vulnerable. Watching her slip in and out of lucidity is fascinating... Miller is a gifted actress who has captured the image of a woman teetering on the edge madness.
The self-absorbed and frivolous Karen is amusing played by Amy McKenna. Her morally degenerate fiancé Steve seems almost too well played by actor Stephen G. Anthony. Barbara Bradshaw finds multiple layers in the character Mattie Fae.
Laura Turnbull conquers the unenviable role of Barbara as she rides the biggest emotional roller coaster in the show. Turnbull is immersed in this character to the point that one can lose sight of the fact that she is acting a script and not in the reality of the moment. Being an actress that can make an audience forget they are watching a show and are instead witnessing someone else's moment is an incredible thing. For moments like this created by Turnbull and Miller, August: Osage County is worth the 3 hours and 20 minutes.
Bill Hirschman reviewed for South Florida Theater Review:
Running 3 ½ hours with two intermissions, featuring 13 characters struggling with demons and frustrated dreams, August: Osage County is the Iditarod of contemporary theater. But the Actors’ Playhouse edition Friday night staked its claim as a highlight of one of the best South Florida theater seasons in recent memory.
This is Arisco’s best work in years directing a straight play. He elicits memorable, grounded performances and adds dozens of grace notes... Arisco’s years directing musicals and lighter comedies have honed his ability maximize the considerable dark humor here.

But his real triumph is his pacing of three and a half hours. While it doesn’t race by like the Steppenwolf version, it flows smoothly at a near perfect clip...
The production elements include Ellis Tillman’s dead-on costumes and Alexander Herrin’s superior sound. Patrick Tennent’s lighting deftly evokes the changing time of day (especially the dark-night-of-the-soul lighting in the study)...
Sean McClelland’s design of the towering suffocating homestead and Gene Seyffer’s execution of it is remarkable for its scope and power. The building has a brooding presence of its own with its decades of paint jobs and wallpaper peeled back, just as Letts is doing with the family.
Saving the best for last: There’s not even a mediocre link in the superb cast. Under Arisco’s direction, they provide textbook examples of naturalistic acting.
Top of the list is Miller’s bravura performance. Miller, the sole non-Floridian here, appeared in Actors’ production of Martha Mitchell Calling in 2007. But this is a far more courageous endeavor as she perpetually dances on the edge of caricature but never once falls over... Her grin is childlike one moment, carnivorous the next.
As for Turnbull, locals have been awed by her talent for more than a decade... She rewards Actors with stellar work in which you never see the gears and levers. She exists inside her character so naturally that it seems like she’s doing nothing, much like Spencer Tracy.
Johnston also hasn’t had a role this worthy of her since GableStage’s Bug in 2004. She makes the most of this opportunity as the reticent daughter whose true character slowly emerges. McKenna, too, inventively depicts Karen’s shallowness including a hilarious near-monologue in which she natters mindlessly to her sister about her life in Florida, barely disguising a desperate self-deceiving need to be loved.
...special mention is due Bradshaw for creating a Mattie Fae who is laughably self-centered and thoughtlessly cruel. But when her own secret is revealed in the last act, Bradshaw makes us see that Mattie is much a deeper soul than we gave her credit for – which was Letts’ point.
Christine Dolen reviewed for The Miami Herald:
Letts’ 2007 masterwork is now getting a dazzling South Florida premiere at Actors’ Playhouse in Coral Gables. Though artistic director David Arisco has built an award-winning track record with Broadway musical hits, this production of August: Osage County soars, placing it among the best work in the company’s long history. The regional Carbonell Awards for the best theater of 2011 won’t be bestowed for another year. But when they are, expect to see many of the artists involved with August: Osage County on the lists of contenders and winners.
Astutely cast and powerfully executed, the Actors’ production is nearly flawless. Yes, you could complain about the occasional muddiness of the miked sound or the inability, from certain seats, to see everyone during the cataclysmic family dinner-from-hell. But those are small things, given the wild ride Letts, Arisco and 13 terrific actors provide through a play with as many twists and turns as San Francisco’s famously crooked Lombard Street. And if you love great, edge-of-your seat theater, Actors’ August: Osage County is a ride you must take.
August: Osage County plays at Actors' Playhouse through April 10, 2011.

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