Los Angeles Theater Preview: AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY (L.A. Theatre Works at UCLA)

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by Tony Frankel on July 7, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles


Having witnessed many Broadway hits at the beginning and end of their runs (and the touring companies they spawned), it is fair for me to say that the magic and crackling electricity accompanying subsequent casts is rarely the same. And so it has been for Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County, a monumental, titillating, shocking, and poetic 2007 work about the Westons, a dysfunctional (to put it mildly) Oklahoman family that gathers during a brutal summer heat wave to provide comfort to their bitter, substance-abusing matriarch, and to find their missing August-Osage-County-POSTERfather. This sprawling, rhythmical, mesmerizing piece opened at Steppenwolf in Chicago followed by a Broadway run with the original cast. As much as I enjoyed the play at the Ahmanson and The Old Globe (and to a lesser extent the truncated movie version), something felt missing.

Stage and Cinema’s review of the Broadway production elucidates just what that missing ingredient is: “And there is no richer character than Violet Weston, the drug-addled matriarch, she of the wicked tongue and the bruised heart, who is to this play what Mary Tyrone is to Long Day’s Journey into Night. And Deanna Dunagan will be remembered whenever one considers the great performances of our time for her altogether extraordinary creation of this character, from her strange way of maneuvering a staircase to the precise way she makes her spine straighten, even as the drugs she consumes are taking their toll. Flinty and murderous one minute, a cruel little child the next, Dunagan commands the stage. And if Violet Weston can control neither herself nor her family, Deanna Dunagan nevertheless controls the play.”

August: Osage CountyThis weekend, lightning will strike in the same play twice as Dunagan (who won a Tony Award for playing Violet) and original Steppenwolf and Broadway cast members Kimberly Guerrero, Francis Guinan, Mariann Mayberry, and Rondi Reed (winner of the Tony for her turn as Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae) reunite to record this Pulitzer Prize winning comic epic for L.A. Theatre Works in a limited 5-performance run July 10-13 at UCLA’s James Bridges Theater.

August-Osage-County-Art-smHaving seen many of L.A. Theatre Works productions recorded live for public radio and digital download (without sets or costumes), I can assure you that the radio theater performances actually stir my imagination to the point that the trappings materialize before my eyes. The actors remain seated upstage until their turn at the mike, but as he has before, director Bart DeLorenzo knows exactly how to stage them for maximum effect.

Along with Dunagan, Guerrero, Guinan (one of my favorite stage actors), Mayberry, and Reed, you will get to be up close to stars of stage, screen, and TV: Tara Lynne Barr (God Bless America), Shannon Cochran (member of the National Tour and Center Theatre Group casts), Rosemarie DeWitt (United States of Tara), Scott Jaeck (ER), Ron Livingston (Band of Brothers), Robert Maffia (24), Robert Pine (Frozen), and David Warshofsky (Captain Phillips) will also be on board.

Rondi Reed and Deanna Dunagan in a scene from AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY at the Lyttelton - photo by Tristram KentonMore from Stage and Cinema’s review: “It is as beautifully imagined, brilliantly realized, finely-grained, and gorgeously written an American play as has come our way in a long time. And it’s one of those plays that makes a lot of theater-goers know what it’s like to be in a theater again, luxuriating in the comfort of taking pains, after too many years of feeling seriously short-changed by unresolved plays that seem longer at ninety minutes than August does at three and a half hours… Tracy Letts joins the short list of truly exciting new American playwrights with August: Osage County. Nobody seriously interested in the future of theater can afford to miss it.”

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previous production photos of cast members who will be appearing at L. A. Theatre Works by Tristram Kenton and Joan Marcus

August: Osage County
L. A. Theatre Works
produced by Susan A. Loewenberg
James Bridges Theater
UCLA School of Theater, Film and Television
235 Charles E. Young Drive
Thursday, July 10, 2014 at 8
Friday, July 11, 2014 at 8
Saturday, July 12, 2014 at 3 and 8
Sunday, July 13, 2014 at 4
for tickets, call 310-827-0889 or visit www.latw.org

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