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Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

 
AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY
at the Music Box

MEAN IS AS MEAN DOES
By MATT WINDMAN

  Phylicia Rashad and Amy Morton/Ph: Robert J. Saferstein

Let's face it, Mrs. Huxtable. You're on drugs!

That's right. Phylicia Rashad , who most recently appeared on Broadway as Big Mama in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, has taken over the role of Violet Weston, the drug-addicted Big Mama of Tracy Letts'  Pulitzer-winning Broadway drama August: Osage County.

The play observes the sudden disappearance of family patriarch Beverly Weston, which reluctantly forces the entire extended family - daughters, in-laws, cousins, niece and all- to return to their rural Oklahoma home to comfort and confront an unstable matriarch.

Once the dysfunctional pack returns, the mom's drug addiction forces everyone to confront a whole mess of other issues: cancer, suicide, incest, pedophilia, marijuana, alcoholism, depression, adultery, abuse, and everything else you can possibly imagine.

Deanna Dunagan, who originated the role of Violet Weston and received a Tony Award, portrayed her as a terrifying, blinding viper. Estelle Parsons, who immediately followed Dunagan, accentuated the comedy, playing her as a grumpy critic with a few hints of insecurity.

While Ms. Rashad is more than competent to play the role, she is still finding her footing and is not quite there yet. Her performance currently feels fake, forced and unconvincing. In any case, the color-blind casting doesn't bother us at all. 

Nevertheless, August remains a dramatic and comedic feast. Moreover, the real revelation of a return visit to the show  is to relive Amy Morton's harrowing, multilayered performance as the eldest Weston daughter, who must directly confront the faults and flaws of her family until she reaches an absolute breaking point.

Also noteworthy is the addition of Tony winner Elizabeth Ashley as Violet's sis Mattie, who brings an authentic aura of Midwestern attitude and sensibility.

( Unfortunately, Ms. Rashad won't get the opportunity to work out the kinks in her performance . The show has announced it will be closing on June 28). 

 


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