One of the hidden gems of the local theatre community is the Actors’ NET of Bucks County. For those of you who don’t get out to Morrisville, PA, the theatre regularly selects quality products to perform, and give the audiences who attend a first-rate evening of entertainment. The latest example of this is their current production, the Pulitzer Prize and (multiple) Tony Award-winning play, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is a darkly comedic play about what can be best described as a chronically dysfunctional family. The play opens with Beverly Weston (Marco Newton) interviewing Johnna (Amanda Hinkle) for a position as live-in cook, housekeeper, and caregiver for his wife Violet (Susan Blair), who is suffering from mouth cancer and is addicted to pills. Beverly is a self-confessed alcoholic, and waxes poetically about his wife’s afflictions, his life, and other subjects. Several weeks later, Beverly has been missing for five days, and the family gathers to support Violet. Each of the family members has their own issues, and Violet attacks each one in turn for their perceived shortcomings. The sheriff informs the family that Beverly has been found drowned, and Violet is incoherently stoned, and spirals further into confusion. Days later, the family meets at the family home for dinner after the funeral. Violet once again attacks various family members, especially her daughter Barbara (Giz Coughlin.) The tensions escalate until Barbara attacks Violet, then takes control of the house, ordering her family to search the house, find all of Violet’s drugs and confiscate them. And there is more, but the play is too long and complex to give all the story here.
The cast of this production is amazing from top to bottom. Coughlin as Barbara and Blair as Violet are particularly effective, their mannerisms and line delivery spot-on throughout. Blair is able to very accurately portray Violet when she is stoned to the point of incoherence without being incoherent, and is biting and evil when “sober.” Coughlin’s character is the family glue, keeping everyone together even as her own marriage is disintegrating…terrific performances from both of these talented actresses. The rest of the cast performs expertly as well: Cathy Liebars (Ivy) is the daughter who stayed local, and suffered the most from her mother as a result. Ken Ammerman (Bill) is the husband who rallies to his wife’s side even though he has left her for a younger woman. Alexa Gutter Jean) is Bill and Barbara’s 14 year old daughter…a typical rebellious teen who smokes pot and cigarettes, and is more naïve than she would like to believe. Linda Cunningham (Mattie Fae) and Matthew Cassidy (Charlie) are Violet’s sister and brother-in-law, supportive to a point, yet with their own secrets. Maryalice Rubins-Pololeski (Karen) is Violet’s youngest daughter, living in Florida with fiancé Steve (played with appropriate oily manner by Tim Tolen). Wren Workman (Little Charles) is the son of Mattie Fae and Charlie who suffers his mother’s constant wrath. Hinkle’s Johnna is the constant…efficient, kind, supportive. Newton as Beverly is boozy and charming. Rounding out the cast is James Banar as the Sheriff, Barbara’s high school sweetheart who still carries a torch. Each of these is worth the price of admission.
The set is compact yet functional, and works very well. Director Delarme Landes is very adept at using the space and maneuvering the cast expertly around the stage. In addition, his feel for the property, the characters, and the setting were evident…everything about this play was first-rate. The only decision I have a bit of a conflict with was his decision to only have one intermission. This property is a three-act play…a LONG three-act play…and even with the compelling story and characters, each act was very long and made for a difficult seating. (The first act is 2 hours, the second act runs over an hour.) That being said, even with the lengthy time between breaks, the show kept my interest and more.
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
A Play by Tracy Letts
Directed by Delarmes Landes
February 28 – March 23, 2014
The Actors’ NET of Bucks County
The Heritage Center Theatre
635 Delmorr Avenue