Young Bill Young and I ventured forth through the snowy, icy mess into Tulsa for the Sunday matinee performance of August: Osage County. (Actually the Turner Turnpike was in good shape) I am so glad we perservered, exchanged our Thursday night tickets and finally arrived at the theater to find they thought we should have been there on Saturday. But with the help of the Performing Arts Center staff we got great seats on the third row right in the middle!!
The stage setting is a three story cut away house. All the action takes place on various floors of the house, starting with Beverly Weston sitting in his office explaining to the new hired help the eccentricities of the Weston household. Beverly Weston drinks, Violet Weston takes pills. The play unfolds as Beverly disappears; the impetus for the return of the Weston girls, with husband, child and fiance and Violet’s sister, husband and grown son. The return of the family to the Pawhuska home reveals a tinderbox of hostility and every dysfunction imaginable.
The acting was superb. The play program has an article on Estelle Parsons who wonderfully portrays a drugged up, foul mouthed, controlling Violet. Shannon Cochran plays Barb Fordham, the oldest daugher, going through a failing marriage, accompanied by an angry daughter and a desire to strangle her mother (which she almost accomplishes in the second act). Ivy Weston (Angelica Torn) is the family doormat, and Karen Weston (Amy Warren) the non-stop talking, self absorbed, but needy last child.
The play has plenty of comedy, we couldn’t survive the three hour drama unfolding without it. Some of the most memorable lines are the funniest. Most I can’t repeat here because NewsOk might censor the language, but take my word on it.
I’ve read the play but it’s so much better when you see it performed. But if you’ve missed your chance to go see it, head on out to the bookstore, or library and get yourself a copy. (I think they should have sold copies of the play at the play.)
Bill and I talked this morning about how much it stays with you. The images, dialogue and characters linger. Oklahoma’s own Tracy Letts has delivered the real thing with this play, and thanks for letting it come to Oklahoma.
For an opening night review read the Tulsa World.
All the talk of poetry must have made me hungry to read some. So I went to one of my newest finds, Family Album, by Howard Starks. Starks taught at Southeastern Oklahoma State University in Durant, distinguished Alumni Award recipient in 2002.
Fortunately my library has Stark’s book of poetry, Family Album. (sorry, no longer in print)
Publisher: Durant, OK: Running Board Press
Using sepia toned photographs to introduce the poems, we meet him and his family. I know that all of us from Oklahoma or who have parents raised here, have looked at similar photographs of our family, wondered what they were thinking, how life had changed them and reflected on our own image.
from Family Rite
‘In my mother’s sewing room stored
among old dress patterns is the pattern
of our childhoods
in a box
filled with darkness–
old photos in darkness getting arcane
as they crisp and dim.
We mostly leave it closed the box
that once held Dad’s Sunday Stetson
for even images of joy can hurt.
(Innocence when recalled harms
And some of the faces solemn for the camera
speak of hopes
we’d rather not recall–
make dense in us
the shadowy children we once were.’
Looking through old pictures is a landmind of feelings for most of us. I know some people who can look and see only the good times; parties, Christmases, new babies, and always smiling faces. But Starks reminds us of dreams unfulfilled, hard times, missed opportunities and the realism of life’s lessons.
From Two Girls (The photograph in front of this poem is of two girls, almost women, arms around each other, looking determined into the camera.)
‘Imagine a Voice that day
You will work and work and work
wear out your freshness
in shabby houses and hot fields
scream in birthings
weep alone and wonder
where all this pain came from.
One will cough her life away
at thirty one.
The other will live long
be ground like corn
by a world that whispers
give give give–
there’s more yet to bear.
Having listened these gallant girls
would still have said
So be it.’
I look at the photographs and see the ones of my Grandma, Mom, our old houses and broken down buildings, cars and flowers in the yard, all surrounded by the nostalgia and melancholy of the past, yet integral to who I am.
I just finished the play, August: Osage County, powerful, thoughtful, full of family anger and secrets. We’re all from that family one way or the other, all of us harboring secrets, frustrations, envy and anger, all trying to figure it out before it’s too late, all finding our place at the table. My mom used to say about our family ”well it isn’t a Norman Rockwell painting”, and so the Weston family isn’t either.
It’s a good play for Thanksgiving, to remind us normal may be different than Mr Rockwell painted us, but it’s what we are.So pass the turkey and dressing, hope the fights stay to a minimum, and Christmas is just around the corner.
It’s also particularly humorous to hear reviewers on You Tube, say “Osage”, it sounds like some kind of sausage.
First, start with Tracy Letts’ Tony and Pulitzer Prize winning play, August: Osage County, a dysfunctional family complete with dinner. Very Thanksgiving.
Next to keep the family theme going, Billie Letts, Tracy’s mom, has a new book, Made in the U.S.A.
Looking forward to Carolyn Wall’s Sweeping Up Glass.
And for dessert Carolyn Hart’s Ghost at Work, a new series, a new heroine.
Five for dinner, you do have to spend some time with relatives and turkey. Happy HOLIDAY.