I believe every person, including me, knows their family has some sort of dysfunction. In Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s production of “August: Osage County,” the Weston family has more than you can imagine. Once you think you have them figured out, they fire more right at you, using every curse word written, with a comical flair. I sat in the audience with my mom as I watched the play. A couple of times I leaned over and said “Mom! That’s you!” Sometimes she laughed, sometimes she didn’t. Either way, it was worth the look on her face.
It all takes place in the house of Beverly and Violet Weston. The dynamic couple grew up poor and gave everything to their three girls, Ivy, Barbara and Karen. The stage is a setup of an open living room and dining room area, complete with a plaid couch, TV, piles of book and magazines and a record player. Plenty of pictures cover the wall, not hiding the torn wallpaper. A normal, old, lived-in house. The only difference here is the windows are covered with sheets, so no light gets in.
It opens in Beverly’s wood panel office upstairs. He is hiring a live-in housekeeper to cook, clean and take his wife to her cancer treatment appointments. During the interview, he quotes a line from T.S. Elliot, saying, “Life is very long.” He sips his whisky while admitting to the housekeeper that he drinks often and his wife abuses pills. Not afraid or even phased by what he says, the housekeeper, a young Native American woman, accepts the role. The dialogue continues to refer to the young woman’s Native American heritage. This is only to distract you.
Before you know it, Beverly has disappeared. Ivy, the daughter who lives close to home, begins to make the calls to bring her sisters and aunt to the house. She is worried about her father and tired of taking verbal abuse from her mother. Violet calls her stupid, says she doesn’t dress feminine enough and isn’t pretty.
Violet’s sister Mattie Fae shows up and speaks venom to everyone, including her own adult son who still lives at home. The eldest sister, Barbara, shows up with her estranged husband and 14-year-old daughter who, let’s just say, inhales more than just air. Soon, Karen Weston comes home with her fiancé, who happens to have a wandering eye.
Once everyone is accounted for, they do their best to hide their own hideous truths. Unfortunately, the lies begin to tear them apart and reveal secrets no one is ready to accept. It sounds like a normal Thanksgiving dinner, right? I can give you a couple stories from my family where an aunt and uncle ignored each other the entire meal, two cousins started fighting and another uncle got so drunk he walked through a screen door. It’s a recipe for multiple disasters, but hilarious memories down the line.
Without revealing too much, the audience will experience a husband correcting his wife on his infidelities, blood cousins falling in love, a infidelity right in the house, and a true father being revealed. Be prepared for the calling and a couple physical fights that lead to hair pulling and the use of a frying pan.
Honestly, I’ve never laughed hysterically and cringed at dysfunction like this before. My emotions were all over the place and sometimes in disbelief at what family can do and say to each other. Many members of the audience did not know whether to gasp or laugh. Mostly, it came out as a loud shriek followed by their hand covering their mouth. I highly recommend everyone to bring at least one family member to this play. It is worth stomach cramps from laughter, and the possible recognizing of your own truths.
Marissa Staples is Cincinnati published author and writer for The Voice of Black Cincinnati. She developed her love of arts from her mother, Kandi. Being a native of Cincinnati, she loves to travel. If she is not traveling, you can find her reading, writing, volunteering or drinking wine. Wine always brings smiles, friends and creative dialogue.