"August:  Osage County" Aaron Hendry, Susan Angelo, Willow Geer, Mark Lewis (Photo - Miriam Geer).

      “August: Osage County” Aaron Hendry, Susan Angelo, Willow Geer, Mark Lewis (Photo – Miriam Geer).

      As anyone familiar with the productions at Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum knows, you’re about as likely to see something mediocre as you are to get drenched in a downpour when you step outside your Southern California door any time in the foreseeable future.

      By Carol Edger Germain

      Many of the actors at the Will Geer are family members and/or actors long associated with this top notch troupe, some for decades. So my high expectations were already well established days before the play opened based solely on the theater’s reputation and my past experiences there (I have not seen the movie so I only knew the bare bones details of the story). And once again, not only was I not disappointed, I left satiated and smiling, and wishing this three-hour hold-onto-your-hats exploration of the intricate relationships, dark secrets, love, jealousy, frustration, denial, and myriad other emotions of the Weston family had been hours longer. I just couldn’t get enough of these flawed and complicated, but still intriguing and lovable, people.

      It was obvious why this play by Tracy Letts won the Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award, and director Mary Jo DuPrey was the perfect puppet master to bring it to life for the audience. It’s fairly easy to create a “character” with secrets and quirks and murky purposes, but to flesh them out into a full human being and make the audience care what happens to them takes talent at the level of Mr. Letts and Ms. DuPrey.

      "August:  Osage County" -  Aaron Hendry, Sam Trueman, Alan Blumenfeld, Melora Marshall, Ellen Geer, Abby Craden, Susan Angelo, Willow Geer, Mark Lewis (Photo - Miriam Geer).

      “August: Osage County” – Aaron Hendry, Sam Trueman, Alan Blumenfeld, Melora Marshall, Ellen Geer, Abby Craden, Susan Angelo, Willow Geer, Mark Lewis (Photo – Miriam Geer).

      Dad is missing, mom is addicted, and each of their three daughters is spinning in her own set of circumstances, trying to control her immediate situation while meshing with the family and struggling to be heard. When it is determined that dad is dead (not a spoiler, this isn’t a whodunit), the family gathers for the funeral, and aunts, uncles, cousins, siblings, “Native Americans” (you’ll get the quotation marks when you see the play) all fling themselves onto the pile of chaos as tall as the trees in Topanga Canyon, and at various speeds in various combinations of characters attempt to unravel themselves from the melee, but remain entwined, although in different ways than we first thought apparent. No one is solidly connected to another, but no one is independent either.

      The audience is along on this Mad Mouse of a ride (I know I’m showing my age, but just saying, this is not a smooth rollercoaster ride with anticipated mile high thrills, this one jerks you side to side and spins you around unexpectedly just when you thought you knew what was coming). You will laugh out loud continually during this play, while simultaneously absorbing the underlying, more painful emotions beneath the sniping, fighting, joking, and seemingly disconnected family members. I am enjoying reliving the experience while writing this, and will likely return for another helping at the Weston family table.

      The bar for complicated, deep, and humorous family dramas has been raised very high by this play, it needs to be at the top of every “What to Do in LA This Summer” list.

      "August:  Osage County" - Susan Angelo, Ellen Geer, Willow Geer, Abby Craden (Photo – Miriam Geer).

      “August: Osage County” – Susan Angelo, Ellen Geer, Willow Geer, Abby Craden (Photo – Miriam Geer).

      Ellen Geer is Violet Weston, the drug addicted, acidic family matriarch. Feel free to enjoy her snarky swipes at the other family members (sometimes judgmental, sometimes cruel, but usually right on the money) – after all, you are safe from her sharp tongue on the other side of the lights.

      Tim Halligan is Beverly Weston, the missing husband (who is only seen at the beginning, but long enough to give us some insight into his point of view)

      Susan Angelo, Abby Craden and Willow Geer are Barbara, Ivy and Karen, the three Weston daughters.

      Aaron Hendry is Bill, Barbara’s husband, and Judy Durkin is Jean, their pot-smoking teen-aged daughter, who naively (or is she so naïve?) flirts with danger on a couple of levels.

      Mark Lewis is Karen’s fiancé, and has mastered his smarmy sneer

      Rounding out the cast are Melora Marshall, Alan Blumenfeld, and Sam Trueman as Aunt Mattie Fae, Uncle Charlie and Little Charles, respectively. Jeanette Godoy is Johnna, the housekeeper, and Paul Stroili is the Sheriff, and each brings another important piece of the puzzle to light.

      August:O sage County
      Through Sept. 27
      Will Geer’s Theatricum Botanicum
      1419 N. Topanga Canyon Blvd., Topanga CA 90290
      (midway between Pacific Coast Highway and the Ventura Freeway)
      Lower tier: $39.50
      Upper tier: $27
      Discounts available for students, seniors, the military and AEA members.
      Purchase tickets here.

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      1. Alex Nodopaka says:

        Just tooooo much theatrics… haha

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