Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Broadway at Its Best – “August: Osage County”

During my most recent visit to New York City, I carved out a few hours in the middle of the day to take in a matinee performance of a Broadway show. I headed to the TKTS booth in Times Square to see what was available for discounted tickets. The line waiting to see one of the musicals stretched out to fill the block around the box office. The line dedicated to dramatic straight plays contained only a few dozen hearty souls. So, my decision was made to see “August: Osage County.” It was one of the best decisions of my theater-going career.

The play, written by Tracy Letts, has received universal acclaim. It won the Pulitzer Prize and 5 Tony Awards. The writing is of the highest caliber. Think of a blend of Chekhov, Eugene O’Neill, and Tennessee Williams and add a dash of Pinter. The three hours and twenty minutes that it took for the three acts to play out seemed to fly by. The ensemble cast, now anchored by the estimable Estelle Parsons as the matriarch, Violet, is note perfect and flawless. The play originated with Chicago’s Steppenwolf Theater Company, and the cast is populated with several actors from that venerable troupe. The story raises family dysfunction to an art form - literally and figuratively. Unless you were raised in a particularly healthy and loving home, you will probably recognize some extended family members among the richly-drawn characters that Letts has brought to life.

The recent review linked below, written by Charles Isherwood of The New York Times, captures perfectly the dynamics that make this the best play to grace Broadway in many a year. If you plan to be in NYC any time in the next few months, this play is worth going out of your way to see. It has already taken its place in the pantheon of great American drama.

Isherwood Review



1 comment:

Mark "I LOVE AL" Sohmer said...

"A Day in the Life off Renaissance Man Al Chase"
~ A Parody in One Act ~
by Mark Sohmer

Dear Diary,

Today was pretty blah. Nothing unusual. It started with a flight to Washington D.C. to meet with the President's Adviser on Foreign Affairs. I had been introduced to him through a mutual friend while eating muffins at the most lovely establishment in Paris that you just must try.

During the meeting with this dignitary, we realized we had mutual friends in the Pentagon, we we took a stroll over there. There was a problem with me not having proper clearance, but the guard recognized me from my stint playing Topol many summers ago, so he agreed to let me in if I would autograph his notebook. It was the least I could do.

Due to the bad weather, my flight to Logan was diverted to Chicago, and I had to wait in the airport there for an hour. What do you know! Who should walk by my terminal but Johnny Damon. Johnny remembered me as the fun-loving guy who used to watch him play so often back in Fenway. Although he has never admitted it publicly, over a coffee in the terminal, he told me that he often regrets his decision to cut his hair and join when he called "the dark side." Then he said some unkind words about Steinbrenner and was off. Oh, but not before he let me try his Red Sox world series ring.

I was a bit embarrassed, but it got stuck on my finger, and his flight was leaving, so he told me to keep it and just mail it back to him when I got the chance. Nice kid.

Once I reached Boston, there was a bit of trouble getting through the gate because there was a family having difficulty with security guards. Apparently there was a communication problem. As I got closer to the melee, I realized it was due to the guards not being able to understand the people, and it became apparent why. They were speaking the most charming dialect of Kiswahili, which I happened to have picked up in my extensive traveling in Uganda in my youth. So what a delight to revisit one of my favorite languages and translate for these people. They took me out for a mid-afternoon snack as thanks, and I enjoyed traditional matooke. Nice people. And would you believe that upon having a discussion, we discovered we shared a mutual friend in the embassy and I was able to setup a social networking connection?

When I got back to the office, I was so tired I was only able to read three novels.

And I was too pooped to call General Petraeus back. He had wanted my analysis on some recent West Point graduates. He's so high maintenance. Always wants my opinions.

Well, Diary, I'm heading to bed. As I said, nothing too out of the ordinary today. Another typical one. Perhaps something really exciting will happen tomorrow, like falafel lunch with my friend Mark Sohmer!

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