I recently got to catch Repertory Philippines’ production of August: Osage County. It’s a local run of the hit play that started in Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago in 2007. By the end of the year, it was staged on Broadway for two years, closing its run with 648 performances and 18 previews. It received many nominations from prestigious theater organizations, winning five Tony awards, three Drama Desk awards, and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for playwright Tracy Letts.
Last year, it was adapted to the big screen by John Well, with the script written by Letts himself. It stars Meryl Streep, who I’m sure rocked her role as Violet Weston. The film was nominated for two Oscars: Best Actress for Streep and Best Supporting Actress for Julia Roberts.
August: Osage County is the story of the Westons, whose patriarch, Beverly Weston mysteriously disappears. The family gathers together at their farmhouse in Oklahoma hoping for news, and while waiting, dig up family drama that would put any dysfunctional family to shame. Because of its intricate plot and family issues, I made a cheat sheet of the major characters and their personal issues for my feature in When In Manila:
- Violet Weston: the imperial grand dame of the family. A loud, brash, and aggressive woman who is addicted to painkillers. Suffers from what her husband called the joke’s punchline: oral cancer.
- Barbara Fordham: the eldest daughter of Beverly and Violet. She is a caring yet controlling woman whose marriage is slowly disintegrating. Her husband Bill is having an affair with one of his students, but he is there to support his wife. Their daughter Jean is an adolescent with growing pains (and a predilection for pot).
- Ivy Weston: the Westons’ middle child. She is the cool, calm, and collected type, often interrogated for still being single at 44. She is, in fact, in a secret relationship, with someone she shouldn’t be having a relationship with.
- Karen Weston: the youngest Weston child. She is carefree and hedonistic, and is engaged to a sleazy man named Steve who has his own predilections.
- Mattie Fae Aiken: Violet’s sister. Is as loud and brash as her sister. Constantly antagonizes her husband Charlie and their son Little Charlie, who they call a “screw-up.”
- Johnna Monevata: the Cheyenne woman Beverly hires to watch over Violet and the household. May be the only sane soul in the Weston farmhouse.
Rep’s August: Osage County was a brilliant production. The acting was top-notch, especially Sheila Francisco and Pinky Amador. Sheila is originally cast as Mattie Fae, and you really appreciate the depth of her acting when you consider she has to play two different roles, sometimes in one day. She intensely conveys a complex range of emotions from pain to anger, condescension, and resignation. Pinky is brilliant as Barbara, perfectly balancing a struggling demeanor and wild abandon. My favorite scenes were the ones where both Sheila and Pinky completely lose it.
However, the story is the true gem of the production. The story revolves around the disappearance of Beverly, but sometimes this is overshadowed by the personal issues and drama of the Weston family. Each has their own story that at first it can be hard to follow. I often found myself thinking, “Oh, this girl is the one that his this problem, while this guy is the one who did this, and that guy is this.” But once you get the hang of the story and really pay attention, you’ll find how everything connects and appreciate how they can still stick to each other even if their lives are so different.
The cast is rounded out by Tami Monsod (Ivy Weston), Liesl Batucan (Karen Weston), Leo Rialp (Beverly Weston), Kenneth Moraleda (Bill Fordham), Thea Gloria (Jean Fordham), Richard Cunanan (Charlie Aiken), Hans Eckstein (Steve Heidebrecht), Noel Rayos (Little Charles Aiken), Angeli Bayani (Johnna Monevata, understudy is Naths Everett), and Arnel Carrion (Sheriff Deon Gilbeau).
August: Osage County is directed by Chris Millado, a well-respected theater veteran and currently the Vice-President and Artistic Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines.