If you think your family is crazy, just wait until you meet the Westons. The Weston family is the center of Tracy Letts' emotionally-charged Pulitzer Prize-winning drama August: Osage County, currently in performance at the Fletcher Opera Theatre at the Progress Energy Center for the Performing Arts, helmed by Hot Summer Nights | Theatre Raleigh.
The play centers around the Weston family, who are gathering after the rather mysterious death of the family patriarch, Beverly. Beverly left behind a widow and three daughters, in addition to several other family members by blood and marriage. When they all get together, many secrets are revealed, both long-hidden and newly formed. The things that go wrong in that family are things that most people couldn't come up with in their wildest imaginations.
The cast of thirteen is a true ensemble of fabulous actors who bring the Weston family and those around them to life. Every single one of them is essential to the quality of the whole, and they deliver. The actresses playing the Weston women, in particular are forces to be reckoned with. Dorothy Lyman portrays Violet, the devolving Weston matriarch, whose cancer and addiction to pills are only the start of her problems. As the outspoken Violet, Lyman shines – her portrayal of Violet gives insight into the rest of the Weston women – she is their mother, after all. From taking too many pills and garbled speech to heartbreaking realizations that she knew what was going on around her for many years, Lyman's Violet is a complete, well-rounded character. The three Weston sisters – Barbara, played by Julie Fishell, Ivy, played by Lisa Brescia, and Karen, played by Lauren Kennedy – are a complicated group of women portrayed by a phenomenal trio of actresses. The three of them are, simply put, believable as sisters. Each actress brings a different vibe to the stage, just as each sister brings her own brand of crazy to the family. The three of them on stage together is a remarkable sight to behold.
The writing is so realistic, and includes characters interrupting each other, talking over one another, and even a scene in which everyone in the house is holding their own conversations at once, and the audience hears bits and pieces of each one. It's not clean and tidy back-and-forth conversation, it is real conversation the way people really speak.
The set, designed by Chris Bernier, is well-planned and well-executed, with every little detail accounted for. The best part about the coming together of Eric Woodall's direction and Bernier's set design is that the Weston house comes alive as a truly lived-in building. There are always things going on throughout the house – the housekeeper reading in the attic bedroom, someone asleep in the couch on the landing, someone watching television in the living room – that is in addition to the scene at hand. It is like taking a glimpse into the life of that house and all those inside. The lighting design by Jennifer Mann Becker is used to separate the rooms on the main floor of the house, and works well to keep the open flow of the design, while still feeling like a real house. It echoes the verisimilitude of the other elements of the play, which all come together for a complicated, crazy, tragic, and brilliant night of theater.
August: Osage County runs through December 9. For tickets and more information, visit www.hotsummernightsatthekennedy.org.
Photo Credit: Curtis Brown Photography