Regional Reviews: San Francisco/North Bay
Also see Richard's reviews of Caught, The Oldest Living Cater Waiter: My Life in Three Courses and all of what you love and none of what you hate
August: Osage County is set in present day Oklahoma where poet and academic Beverly Weston (Will Marchetti) first appears on stage with Johnna (Kathleen Pizzo), a Cheyenne woman who is about to be hired as the housekeeper. We see him imbibing Jim Beam and revealing some basic facts of his family. He tells of his wife Violet (Sherman Fracher), a foul-tongued matriarch with cancer of the mouth. The audience learns in the next scene that Beverly has disappeared and soon Sheriff Deon Gilbeau (Ryan Tasker) appears to tell the family that Beverly is dead. From then on, it is pandemonium as the family gathers for the funeral.
All members of the Weston family have major problems. Violet has three daughters: Barbara (Arwen Anderson), Ivy (Danielle Levin), and Karen (Joanne Lubeck). Barbara is in a failing marriage with Bill (David Ari) who has a young mistress we do not see; they arrive with their pot-smoking 15-year-old daughter Jean (Danielle Bowen). Karen (Joanne Lubeck), who is very naïve about romance, is accompanied by her fiancé Steve (Peter Ruocco) who seems to be a bit of a cad. Ivy (Danielle Levin) arrives alone, though she has a secret romance which twists and turns at intervals to a terrible conclusion. Violet's sister Mattie Fae (Anne Darragh), a real bitch and a motor-mouth, arrives with her husband Charlie (Robert Sicular). She belittles her adult son Little Charles (Patrick Kelly Jones) whose is child-like. What we have here is an engrossing family saga with the only sane person on the stage being Johnna.
Director Jasson Minadakis has assembled a fabulous cast of Bay Area actors to present this fantastic drama. Sherman Fracher is outstanding as the pill-popping matriarch who is a combination of Medea, Mary Cavan Tyrone and Martha of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?. She goes from dizzy to frantic steeliness and develops a stagger of a walk, like that of a drunk trying to stay on a straight path. Arwen Anderson gives an incredible portrayal of Violet's eldest daughter Barbara. The rising face-off between daughter and mother and the relish they take in confrontations are savage.
Danielle Levin is splendid as Ivy, a naive woman who is having her first affair. Robert Sicular as Mattie Fae's husband and David Ari as Barbara's husband give rich performances. Peter Ruocco, returning to the stage after a two-year layoff, is beautifully repellant as Steve. William Marchetti makes the best of his one scene at the beginning of the drama. He gives a first-rate performance.
Danielle Bowen as granddaughter Jean, Joanne Lubeck as Karen, Patrick Kelly Jones as Little Charles, Kathleen Pizzo as Johnna the housekeeper, and Ryan Tasker as the Sheriff don't disappoint with their acting skills. All are well suited to their parts. There are no weak performances and that is attributable to Jason Minadakis' brilliant direction.
The set design by J. B. Wilson is overwhelming. It's a spread-out wooden skeleton of a three-story house with a table placed at the center that slants steeply from the second story down to the stage. We see all the actors at all times on various levels of the house, even when they aren't lit with Kurt Landisman's excellent lighting design. The table is featured in the second act where we see a knock-out of the family around the table. It's a fantastic scene with the whole family grouped around the table with Violet at the head.
August: Osage County runs through October 2nd, 2016, at Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller Ave, Mill Valley. To purchase tickets call 415-388-5208 or visit www.marintheatre.org. Coming up next is the world premiere of Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley which has been described as a Jane Austin holiday romance. It opens on November 25 and runs through December 18.