In today’s San Francisco Chronicle review of the play, which premiered in 2007, Lily Janiak concludes that MTC Artistic Director Jasson Minadakis’ direction of the 13-member cast “makes the case that the play wasn’t just a success of its moment but rather an enduring and unique contribution to the tradition of the American family play.”
Dubbed a “fiercely funny, turbo-charged tragicomedy” by The New York Times, August: Osage County tells the story of the Weston clan, whose alcoholic patriarch Beverly Weston goes missing and causes the entire family, with in-laws, cousins, grandchildren and new beaus in tow, to reluctantly return home to their mother Violet, who is “cancer-stricken, drug-addled, and a bigger piece of work than ever.” Old grievances are aired, family secrets are spilled, and cutting remarks—especially those from Violet—take deadly aim.
“Tracy Letts’ drama carries so much moral heft, paints so full a portrait of the pain that only family members can induce, that its doom feels religiously ordained,” Janiak writes. She says the production builds on The Glass Menagerie, a story of the prodigal son leaving home, and Buried Child, the take of a prodigal son who comes back to a home that’s forgotten him. “August: Osage County writes the next chapter. We now live in a world where children, having long departed the family homestead, only visit. Ours is a society, the play attests, that will one day be defined by our failure to care for, to simply be with, our elders as they sicken and near the end of life — not that those elders make it easy, or even possible, to do so,” she writes.
Marin Independent Journal correspondent Sam Hurwitt agrees, writing that August: Osage County is “a darkly funny and emotionally grueling drama that lasts three and a half hours with two intermissions, but it doesn’t seem long at all in artistic director Jasson Minadakis’ compellingly tense staging with a terrific cast of Bay Area actors.”
Hurwitt acknowledges that “the play can be difficult to watch sometimes,” but that “for the same reason, it’s impossible to look away. It’s a fascinatingly bleak and ruefully comical exploration of what the bonds of kinship really mean and whether they can be stronger than the aggressively dysfunctional relationships that are tearing the family apart.”