In a nod to its Oklahoma setting, "August: Osage County" publicity often contains a phrase along the lines of how the play reveals a "tornado of emotions."
And it's true that in Tracy Letts'
But there's a storm of another kind in
Characters this tragic shouldn't be this laugh-out-loud funny, but Bell's actors make the most of Letts' script. Zingers fly across the dinner table — the kind of laserlike insults that in real life you never think of until it's too late.
For the Westons know how to push each other's buttons — especially matriarch Violet, who's addicted to
When family patriarch Beverly Weston disappears, eldest daughter Barbara returns home from Colorado and is soon submerged in the old dysfunction.
As Barbara, Elizabeth Dean unravels before the audience's eyes. As her family falls apart, her speech becomes more rapid, her language more vulgar, her hair more fly-away. She's the portrait of a woman drowning in pain, who doesn't know how to fix the myriad problems before her.
Her intensity is matched by Peg O'Keef, as her pill-addled mother. Sporting oddly yellow hair, O'Keef staggers around the stage, her eyes fixed on the distance, rasping insults at those around her. Yet through her bluster and sly needling of her daughters, pain is always visible on her face, too.
Robin Olson, as Violet's sister Mattie Fae, effectively employs a whiny rural drawl as she berates her husband and son. As her husband, Riley Clermont projects calmness through his deliberate speech and laidback movements.
Other actors also make their marks: Stephan Jones as an ineffective husband and parent; Ame Livingston as a woman living so far in denial she brightly won't see what's right in front of her; Tommy Keesling as a creepy outsider.
On opening night, the pacing of key scenes toward play's end seemed a bit off. A dramatic confession by Mattie Fae felt rushed, as did a critical revelation by Violet and a key exit by Barbara.
But maybe that's because, despite their twisted flaws, in a show of this caliber I wasn't quite ready to say goodbye to the tragically funny Westons.
'August: Osage County'
• What: Mad Cow Theatre production of the comedy/drama by Tracy Letts
• Length: 3.5 hours, including 2 intermissions
• Where: Mad Cow Theatre, 54 W. Church St., Orlando
• When: 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays and two Mondays, Dec. 10 and 17; 2:30 p.m. Sundays; through Dec. 23
• Tickets: $27, $15 on Mondays
• Call: 407-297-8788