The Column Online



by Tracy Letts

Denton Community Theatre

Director – Mildred A Peveto
Set Design – Mike Strecher
Costume Design – Nelda Evarts
Light Design – Brad Speck
Properties – Vicki Vann
Sound Design – Francois DesCotes
Fight Choreographer – Jordan Love
Stage Manager – Stephanie Clark


Beverly Weston – Fred Cassell
Violet Weston – Jeannene Abney
Barbara Fordham – Dena Dunn
Ivy Weston – Connie Lane
Karen Weston – Betsy Jilka
Bill Fordham – John Evarts
Jean Fordham – Amanda Leavell
Mattie Fae Aiken – Michelle Rose
Charlie Aiken – Dave Harper
“Little” Charles Aiken – Jordan Love
Johnna Monevata – Alison Trapp
Steve Heidebrecht – Sean Holmes
Sheriff Deon Gilbeau – Steve Hindman

Title Photo Courtesy Denton Record Chronicle – David Minton
Other Photos by Nelda Evarts

Reviewed Performance: 9/20/2013

Reviewed by Eric Bird, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN

August: Osage County is a dark, comedic play that premiered at Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago on June 28, 2007. It later opened on Broadway only six months later and ran for 648 performances. It received several awards including the Tonys for Best Play, Best Direction of a Play and Best Scenic Design of a Play. Tracy Letts also received a Pulitzer Prize for Drama for the script.

At the play’s opening, Beverly, Violet’s husband, has disappeared and is presumed dead. Shortly after Violet discovers he has left she calls up her sister Mattie Fae and her three daughters to come visit her. The show follows this completely dysfunctional family from one major issue to another as they wait for news about Beverly.

Each of the family has major issues to deal with and they do it in the way they think best, according to their own self-interest and desires. And everyone else in the family has their own thoughts on how to solve each other’s problems. Attitudes and egos collide as this family goes through one tense crisis after another.

The set design by Mike Strecher was absolutely incredible. It consists of three stories with most of the action taking place on the bottom floor with a dining room, kitchen, living room and a study. The second floor is a dressing room where a few of the scenes take place. Lastly is the attic where Johnna’s room is located. The set up on the stage worked extremely well in the context of the play. It gave the feel of a real home and allowed us to see a scene’s main action while other characters silently carry on their lives elsewhere on the set.

Nelda Evarts designed the costumes which were realistic in such a way that I could easily see how they fit into the play and the home where Violet lives. I especially appreciated how the costumes also showcased the personality of the characters the actors were striving for and how they changed over time, especially the transition that Barbara went through during the show, from the professional looking teacher to the sloppily-dressed lady staying at the house.

The lighting, as designed by Brad Speck, worked extremely well, easily focusing my attention to the appropriate action onstage. The lighting also added further realism by shining through windows as sunlight going into night.

Vicki Vann’s properties design fit perfectly in the play. It was obvious that the house was well lived in and all the things well used. It helped to convey that Beverly and Violet had been married for many years and had acquired a lot of things throughout their lives. The sheer numbers of props was well coordinated and were always where they needed to be to keep the action moving throughout the show. I was especially impressed by the use of food in the show. There were several scenes where the family was seated at the table for dinner and they had a variety of food to help portray that. They also had a wide variety of porcelain and ceramic pieces for the characters to throw at each other in fits of rage.

Francois DesCotes designed the sound for the show. The sound supported the ambience of the play and the actors’ voices were always balanced to be able to hear them onstage. The TV the teenage daughter kept watching was made realistic with the sounds of a show coming from it. Music was also used to transition from one scene to another. The sound effects were always on cue.

Jeannene Abney was incredible in the role of Violet Weston, the one whose sole purpose is making everyone else miserable. Abney played the character with wit and creativity, telling a compelling story through her actions and interactions onstage. I was amazed at the depth and complexity she conveyed in her character. Abney was masterful being someone in the throes of drug addiction with the occasional lucid moment as the mother of a struggling family.

Dena Dunn played the part of Barbara Fordham, the oldest daughter who is a college professor in Colorado. As the controlling oldest sister, she exerted her authority and presence on stage and Fordham had a very commanding presence. As her character’s hidden struggles were revealed I really sympathized with her. I was further impressed by her dynamic performance as events of the play changed her character.

Ivy Weston, the second daughter and the one who had remained in Oklahoma, was played by Connie Lane. Lane was impressive in her role, giving a strong performance with plenty of dynamism as she portrayed the soft-spoken daughter who is finally standing up for herself. When Ivy’s secret is revealed, Lane makes her react in a believable manner. Lane’s reactions to the other characters portrayed her character’s shock, depression and anger at the unraveling of events.

Betsy Jilka played Karen Weston, the youngest daughter who prefers to live a lie so that she can have a happy life. Jilka’s performance was very well done, with lots of dynamics. I especially appreciated how she interacted with the other characters and how she managed to keep in character throughout all the scenes she was in. Jilka was very good at bubbling on about Karen’s happiness, oblivious to how it irritated others.

John Evarts played the part of Bill Fordham, Barbara’s husband. He was both extremely likeable, yet at the same time dislikeable. The way he portrayed Bill showed he still had feelings for his wife, yet was tired at how mean she could be to everyone around her. He succeeded admirably in portraying this role.

Johnna Monevata, the Cheyenne woman who is hired by Beverly at the beginning of the play, was admirably played by Alison Trapp. The way she played her part showed
Monevata’s distant interactions with the characters and her disbelief at the things they were doing, all the while maintaining a calm demeanor that she needed to be successful in her job. Trapp’s talent managed all of these extremely well.

Jean Fordham, Mattie Fae and Charlie Aiken were played by Amanda Leavell, Michelle Rose and Dave Harper respectively. I especially admired how they each had their quirks and personalities that were very visible onstage. Each of these actors portrayed their characters with skill and accuracy, adding to the overall image onstage.

Though these were smaller roles, “Little” Charles Aiken played by Jordan Love, Steve Heidebrecht masterfully portrayed by Sean Holmes and Sheriff Deon Gilbeau played by Steve Hindman helped round out this amazing cast and tell us a whole story about this dysfunctional family, adding to the wit and comedy of the play.

August: Osage County will definitely make you laugh at the misfortune and the dysfunction that is clearly visible and less visible throughout the play. It is well worth taking the time to head to the theatre and admire the talents of this play’s designers and the actors of Denton Community Theatre who perform in it.


Denton Community Theatre
214 West Hickory,Denton, TX 76201

Performances run through September 29th

Thursday - Saturday at 7:30 pm; Sunday at 2:00 pm.

Ticket prices are $20.00, $18.00 for seniors (62+), and $10.00 for students/
children. Will Call Tickets should be picked up by 15 minutes prior to curtain.
Box Office closes at curtain - tickets not sold after show starts.

For information and to purchase tickets, go to
Or call their box office at 940-382-1915.