A week and a half ago, Michael and I went with friends to see August: Osage County at the Omaha Playhouse. Intense is the briefest summary of my response.
The play is also very, very funny. I laughed lots and heartily, as I am wont to do. Despite its skillful comedy, it is a very intense drama ripe with themes and subplots that actually reach a level of being over-the-top and absurd. Which seems to be intentional. While masking as realism, I wasn't so sure. It was very like O'Neil and Williams, in fact drew directly from them, but also seemed, in a way, to mock their overly intense realism. Doesn't the mom almost caricature the mom in A Long Day's Journey Into Night?
All leaving one with a mysterious ending, held by the Cheyenne woman. Why Cheyenne, I kept puzzling, as they aren't typically in northeast Oklahoma? Why not the local Osage instead?
At two points characters talk about "having the plains," which is akin to having the blues, but different. I really liked this, as it seems to be a genuine emotional experience of those of us who live in the heartland.
The play was filled with lines I enjoyed and intended on remembering to quote often. Seems many have now slipped my memory (a few haven't). I'll probably see it again sometime, I'm sure (and there is a movie on its way).
The playhouse staged this in the black box, which was very effective. We were on the front row, so it was like sitting in the house with the characters. When they fought, you could see the spit flying. The lead actors were impeccable, particularly the woman who played the daughter, Barbara. Some of the other actors were not so strong, but didn't detract too much from the well-written piece. It does drag, however, in the third act.
Is it ultimately a statement of cynicism, maybe even nihilism? Is it apocalyptic? Is this really what the end of the world looks like? Has it already arrived?
Caught between this vision and that of Angels in America, to compare to masterworks of theatre in our generation, I would rather hope for and choose the "More Life" and "Blessing" of Prior Walter.