AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTYby Tracy Letts
Theatre of North Texas
Director & Set Design/Carpentry - Dennis Canright
Stage Manager & Lighting Designer - Branson White
Asst. Stage Manager & Costume Designer - Danielle White
Intimacy Coordinator - Ashley H. White
Fight Coordinator - Jason Leyva
Properties Designer - Lori White
Stage Crew - Caitlin Ferguson, Sofia Culpepper
Beverly Weston - Jason Leyva
Violet Weston - Jenny Tucker
Barbara Fordham - Lynsi Bayles
Bill Fordham - Andrew Dillon
Jean Fordham - Jenna Haefli
Ivy Weston - Ariana Stephens
Karen Weston - Annie R. Such
Mattie Fae Aiken - Margaret Mosely
Charlie Aiken - John Rodgers
Little Charles - Chris Robinson
Johnna Monevata - Nisha Mathews
Steve Heidebrecht - Trey Albright
Sheriff Deon Gilbeau - Jared Culpepper
Reviewed Performance: 9/22/2019
Reviewed by Rebecca Roberts, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
You can’t help but notice that under all of his alcoholic ramblings, there lies a genius in Beverly Weston, as played by Jason Leyva. He opens the show in a sedate prologue that doesn’t necessarily match the tone of the rest of the production. Nevertheless, there is a power in Leyva’s muted demeanor that is important to fully digest, in order to truly grasp his character’s upcoming choices…ones that instigate the show’s proceeding plot.
Days after the prolonged disappearance of her husband, Violet Weston (as played by Jenny Tucker) insists that her slightly estranged family reunite. Tucker’s performance is, in a word, transformative. Unafraid to fully immerse herself in the character, she completely embodies the chemo-ridden, pill-addicted, verbally abusive matriarch with astonishing ease. And on top of all of that, you have Tucker’s brilliant slurred speech and haphazard shuffling beautifully peppered throughout the show. When news finally comes of her husband’s fate, the noticeable progression of pain in Tucker’s eyes, as the realization comes upon her through a drug-induced stupor, is staggering. I just can’t help but wonder…is Jenny Tucker the DFW Meryl Streep?
Lynsi Bayles leads the show, alongside Tucker, as eldest daughter Barbara Fordham. Upon arriving at her childhood home, after many years away, she realizes she must take charge of the situation – meanwhile, her personal life has already begun crumbling down around her. It’s only in her struggle to maintain order and control, that everything truly turns to chaos. Bayles plays the perfect older sister, instantly filling the stage with a totally reassuring presence. You can’t help but feel sympathetic in her totally reasonable moments of frustrations and rage. And Bayles’ inevitable spiral into despondency is distinctly and beautifully acted.
Portraying Barbara’s recently separated husband is Andrew Dillon as Bill. Dillon’s impatience with Barbara (and her family) grows with every scene, until he finally decides he’s had enough and leaves with their daughter, Jean (as played by Jenna Haefli). Haefli is the perfect angsty teen, clearly feeling more pain than she would ever let on, and hiding behind drugs and classic cinema.
Ariana Stephens as middle daughter Ivy Weston, though younger than the role requires, shows such a remarkable level of maturity in her performance that the age discrepancy is almost unnoticeable. Stephens balances her character’s feelings of solitude, secrecy, and repression with an evocative nuance that I truly enjoyed seeing unfold.
Other notable performances came from Margaret Mosely and John Rodgers as Mattie Fae Aiken and Charlie Aiken, respectively. Mosely brought an incredible energy with her, every time she was on stage. She gave the audience countless (needed) moments of comedic relief, but was able to movingly bring the emotion when the moment called for it. Rodgers, too, brought a defining energy to the stage, although his was more of a steady, easygoing kind. He also successfully juggled the comedy and emotion, each with an authentic edge.
Dennis Canright did an excellent job as director of this production. The scenes of overlapping dialogue and activity were staged seamlessly (no small task), and he used every inch of the stage to its full potential. I believe it was his interpretation of the script that kept the production from becoming a stressful 24/7 yell fest. Instead, all of the actors’ performances lent themselves to a more realistic interpretation of family conflict, using a refreshing variety of volume and tone. But even more importantly, Canright put together one of the most insanely talented ensembles of actors, with nary a single weak link among them; and for that, he should be so incredibly proud.
The costumes, as designed by Danielle White, are spot on. Not a single piece feels out of place or confusing. Each costume fit each character well (both in measurement and characteristic). And were you to look at each character without hearing a single line of dialogue, I think you could guess what kind of person they were supposed to be and exactly which role in the family hierarchy they held. I was especially taken with Violet’s robes and turbans, which were perfectly suited to her emotional and physical state.
Necessity is the mother of invention, and it was the very specific constricts of this particular acting space that seemed to bring about some very interesting and unique design choices by both scenic designer (Dennis Canright) and lighting designer (Branson White). The stage is almost entirely front- or backlit. And with very little overhead lighting, the shadows that these alternative lighting elements create are actually ideal for this play’s setting: a cramped southern home whose occupants allow no natural light. Additionally, the small stage is overloaded with living areas and even an attic bedroom. Again, lending itself perfectly to the required claustrophobic living environment of this play. Canright and White not only overcame the limitations, but manipulated them to work exactly as needed.
It’s sometimes funny, sometimes shocking, and sometimes painfully relatable. Support local theatre and experience just the right amount of stressful family drama by seeing Theatre of North Texas’ production of AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY.
Theatre of North Texas
545 Nolen Drive, Suite 250
Southlake, TX 76092
Plays through October 6th.
Rated Mature for language and adult situations.
Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays at 8:00 pm; Sundays at 3:00 pm.
Tickets are $20.
For more information and to purchase tickets, go to https://theatreofnorthtexas.com or call their box office at 817-989-6673.