WHAT DO WE LEARN FROM AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY?

Many messages are conveyed throughout the play. Depending on how deep a reader digs, all sorts of issues can be summoned up. For example, it is no accident that the housekeeper is Native American and that the Caucasian characters tip-toe around their cultural differences. There is a walking-on-eggshells sort of tension that seems to stem from the injustices that happened in Oklahoma over a century ago. A post-colonialist critic could write an entire paper on that alone.


However, most of the play’s themes are derived from the male and female archetypes found in August: Osage County.

PROLOGUE
The play opens with Beverly Weston, a once-famous poet, interviewing Johnna, a young Native American woman, for a position as live-in cook and caregiver for his wife Violet, who is being treated for mouth cancer. Violet is addicted to several different kinds of prescription drugs and exhibits paranoia and mood swings. Beverly, who freely admits that he is an alcoholic, lightly converses about Violet's current problems, most of which Beverly concedes are the result of personal demons too powerful to be cured by drugs. Violet enters the scene clearly affected by her drugs. After an incoherent and combative argument with Beverly, Violet returns upstairs. Beverly hires Johnna, lends her a book of TS Eliot's poetry, and continues to drink.


MOTHERS AND DAUGHTERS: 

In Tracy Letts’ play, Mothers and daughters are more likely to verbally and physically abuse one another rather than exhibit kindness. In Act One, Violet continually asks for her eldest daughter. She depends on Barbara’s emotional strength during this family crisis. Yet, at the same time, Violet cruelly points out Barbara’s advancing age, her evaporated beauty, and her failed marriage – all issues that Barbara wishes to be left unspoken. Barbara responds by putting a stop to her mother’s pill addiction. She rallies the rest of the family into intervention mode. By this might be less of tough-love and more of a power-play. During Act Two’s climactic “family dinner from hell,” Barbara throttles her mother and then declares, “You don’t get it, do you? I’M RUNNING THINGS NOW!”

TWO TYPES OF HUSBANDS: 

If August: Osage County is a reflection of reality, then there are two types of husbands: A) Docile and unmotivated. B) Philandering and unreliable. Violet’s missing husband, Beverly Weston appears briefly, only during the play’s beginning. But in that scene, the audience learns that Beverly has long since ceased to communicate with his wife in a healthy manner. Instead,  he accepts that she is a drug addict. In turn, he drinks himself into a spiritual coma, becoming a very docile husband whose passion for life has fizzled out decades ago.

Beverly’s brother-in-law, Charles, is another timid male character. He tolerates his unpleasant wife for almost forty years before he finally puts his foot down, and even then he’s rather polite about his uprising. He can’t understand why the Weston family is so vicious toward each other. But the audience can’t understand why Charles has stayed around for so long!

His son, Little Charles is a 37-year old couch potato. He represents another example of an unmotivated male. But for some reason, his cousin/lover Ivy finds him heroic” despite his simple-minded lethargy. Perhaps she admires him so much because he presents a sharp contrast to the more devious male characters: Bill (Barbara’s husband - the college professor who sleeps with his students) represents middle aged men who want to feel more desirable so they abandon their wives for younger women. Steve (Karen’s fiancé) represents the sociopath-type guys that prey on the young and naïve.

WHAT GOES AROUND COMES AROUND 

Most of the characters dread the notion of living alone yet they violently resist intimacy, and most seem doomed to a sad, solitary existence. The final lesson is harsh but simple: Be a good person or you’ll taste nothing but your own poison.


AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY is set to open on February 21 and shall run up to March 16, 2014 at Onstage, 2/F, Greenbelt 1, Paseo de Roxas corner Legazpi St., Makati City.

Chris Millado, a well-respected theater veteran and currently the Vice-President and Artistic Director of the Cultural Center of the Philippines will direct August: Osage County.

May not be suitable for children under the age of ten. Children under the age of four are not permitted.

See you at the theater!

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