My husband and I are theater addicts. For me, my love of the theater goes back to summer nights sitting outside with my grandmother watching the children’s plays put on by the local theater group, followed by roles in many children’s theater productions, high school productions and a brief foray into the TV and film industries (background work mostly but I did score a 12 word part that landed me my Screen Actor’s Guild card). For my husband, I’m not sure where it originated, but both of his daughters were bitten by the bug (one is even a drama major) probably through his influence, and a night at the theater has always been a favorite group activity.
While Broadway and London’s West End are meccas for theater lovers, Seattle is a great city too. There are 5 major theaters (The 5th Avenue; The Paramount; Intiman Theater; Seattle Repertory Theater; ACT) plus too many smaller theaters to count. Add in the ballet and opera and I’m pretty sure there is a performance going on somewhere in Seattle at least 360 days of the year. Plus, Seattle is a hot spot for Broadway previews. Over the short time I’ve lived here, I’ve been able to see “The Wedding Singer,” “Shrek,” “Young Frankenstein” and “Memphis” all before they made their Broadway debuts.
The Paramount Theater has a Broadway series every season that brings Broadway touring shows to Seattle for a week or so. Last night, we headed to the Paramount for the Seattle opening night of August: Osage County, by Tracy Letts. August: Osage County won the 2008 Tony Award for Best Play and a Pulitzer Prize for Drama, and most importantly, our friends who had seen it in other cities gave it rave reviews, so we were looking forward to the show. We weren’t disappointed.
Like many great dramas, the premise of August: Osage County is pretty ordinary. A dysfunctional family is brought together by unfortunate circumstances and has to deal with each other. It is this very ordinariness (I don’t think that’s a word but it should be) that makes the play so powerful. Everyone can identify with one or more of the events or emotions taking place. Add in witty dialogue and plot construction that takes you from laughter one moment to concern and then to tears and it’s no wonder Mr. Letts won a Pulitzer Prize for this work.
The cast was incredibly strong. Estelle Parsons, who won the Academy Award for Bonnie and Clyde, shines as the matriarch of the family. Shannon Cochran, who plays the oldest daughter, Barbara, stands up well to Ms. Parsons. In fact, the entire cast was so adept at their parts that we felt like we were a fly on the wall in someone’s house. At points, we felt almost guilty, as if we were eavesdropping.
August: Osage County leaves Seattle on November 1 and then heads to Toronto; and around the States. If you live in or are visiting any of the cities it is passing through, catch it if you can – you won’t be disappointed. If not, and if New York City is in your future, you can check out Tracy Letts’s new play Superior Donuts.