‘Osage County’ rips away a family’s facade




The three-story house that dominates the stage of “August: Osage County” heightens the voyeuristic sense of peering into the private lives inside.

Like a giant doll house, the cut-away house exposes its inhabitants in the wrenching drama.

“Osage,” which won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Play, Best Director and Best Scenic Design, also garnered a Pulitzer for playwright Tracy Letts. The touring production opened at the Palace Theatre on Tuesday.

“Osage” takes place in the sturdy but faded Oklahoma house that is the epicenter of the Weston family.

Three generations of the family gather at the house after their patriarch, hard-drinking Beverly Weston, disappears.

The booze- and drug-fueled reunion that follows is vitriolic, vulgar and raw as secrets are exhumed and wounds ripped anew.

Humor also is released as a byproduct of the all-in-the family nastiness.

Academy Award-winner Estelle Parsons plays Violet, the crusty pill-popping matriarch. Her drug-induced haze only temporarily suppresses her razor-sharp assessments of the people around her. Parsons is powerful in portraying Violet, whose hard life has morphed into a survive-at-all-costs mentality.

Every member of the cast reflects a degree of family that most will recognize. Particularly well-developed is the hierarchy of the three Weston daughters. Their personalities have been shaped by their childhoods, and this long history is brilliantly crystallized in the three-and-a-half-hour play.

One of the most striking things about “Osage” is how middle-American it is. Clad in discount-department-store clothing, the women fan themselves in this hothouse (take that literally — the Weston home isn’t air conditioned) before boiling over.

And their middle-class dreams and disappointments bear an extra layer of frustration because of the unfocused blandness of life in the plains.

But in spite of the setting (or perhaps because of it), “Osage” sears like a red-hot iron.

For ticket info, go to playhousesquare.org.

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