Thursday, April 28, 2011

August: Osage County By Tracy Letts

I saw several plays at Oregon Shakespeare Festival last week and all of them struck me as very good; yet it was the play that disturbed me the most that has stayed with me since then. It was AUGUST OSAGE COUNTY by Tracy Letts. It was the one that some complained about on the Oregon Shakespeare Facebook Page and it was the only one that I hated coming out of the play at its conclusion.

I attended a discussion class before and after the play and although I had read it before hand, I did not think too much of it as it seemed as if it was a real downer, a play about a very dysfunctional family very much like my own family of origin. I watched the opening of the play that night. I was totally worn out by the end.

The next morning, the class came together again and discussed the three hour play and I was able to put things together for myself as I saw that the resolution of what happened on the stage had to be done by the audience. To my mind, the playwright wanted us, the audience, to decide what it was all about. I made up my mind that it was about love and how each of us even in dysfunctional families have our own individual definitions and that all is valid as we try to find our own poetry and meaning and love in our lives. For the first time in my own life, I understood my own past in such a way that I could accept it. That is my own rationale of the insanity that was my own life and that of the play.

It is rare that a play can change my life as this play did, but it did. I can see why it won a Pulitzer Prize. I can't pretend to know the effect it may have had on others but only how it affected me. All of the plays we saw in Ashland this year had the quality in which the audience became part of the play. I don't remember this essence in the plays before. I love books that do this and that was the first time that I felt part of the action on stage. An actor said that each time a play was performed, it was different for everyone. I can see how readily it would be with this play.

There was a university professor sitting next to me who was going to stay a extra week so he could watch the play again. He said he thought the plays that were being performed was outstanding this year but especially enjoyed the Letts play. We are so lucky to have such an exemplary Shakespeare Festival in this country as this one.

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