Theatre review: August, Osage County, The Music Box, New York City

August, Osage County by Tracy Letts
The Music Box, NYC, and touring

Phylicia Rashad, Amy Morton
The phenomenon that is August: Osage County came to Britain for just eight weeks at the end of last year, visiting the National Theatre. However, it continues to wow audiences in the US where the production by Steppenwolf Theatre Company has just completed a run of nearly two years on Broadway following its premiere in Chicago, picking up some Tony awards and winning a Pulitzer for playwright Tracy Letts.

It runs for over three hours and 20 minutes with two intervals, but its richly drawn characters and explosive secrets keep you gripped throughout. It follows the reunion of a large family in Oklahoma after the disappearance of the patriarch and the discord that arises as disturbing truths emerge. It switches from being desperately moving to hilarious, with opportunities for many of the actors to shine.

The original Steppenwolf production had no star names, although the role of the cunning pill-popping matriarch, Violet, stands out as one of the great characters of American drama. Deanna Dunagan won a Tony for best actress, succeeded by Estelle Parsons (best known for TV’s Roseanne) who now stars in the US tour. Before it left Broadway in June, the part was played by Phylicia Rashad (in a controversial piece of colour-blind casting). Although best known in the UK as Clair Huxtable in The Cosby Show, Rashad is an award-winning stage actor Stateside, giving a mesmerising performance as the slurry by sly Violet. Original cast member Amy Morton rejoined for the final months as one of the three daughters, with an emotional and unforgettable performance.

Amateur Stage magazine

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