At their worst, families are like shape-shifting monsters that ultimately—unbearably—remain the same as they ever were. Family, in Tracy Letts’ new play, “August: Osage County,” is a thing to be wrangled with while averting your nose from the awful stench. The setting is now, Pawhuska, Oklahoma. It is a place I know nothing about. An actual blurb from the town’s Web site: “Anyone can look for problems and find them. Because human beings are involved, there’s always the bad with the good.” What an odd thing to find on a civic-minded Web site, but there you have it. And in essence, there you have this play. “Nothing gets by me,” is an oft-repeated line that sounds an awful lot like someone looking for problems. This hits home with an uncomfortable precision. Scattered like pellets of buckshot, the Weston clan reunites briefly when the family’s patriarch, a once-celebrated poet and constant alcoholic, goes missing. Parceled out over three acts (and nearly three-and-a-half hours), the story is large and rambling, much like the house of its setting. Black comedy covers everything like dust; it is never safe to breathe too deep. Secrets are peeled back like scabs, and contentedness eludes. It’s taken me some time to sort out how I feel about this play, and even now I’m not entirely sure. The scope is almost unmanageable—a condensed epic barely able to contain itself. But I can’t quite shake it. Much of this is due to Amy Morton (as the eldest daughter), who becomes the center of gravity in this production. (Anna D. Shapiro is the director.) There is a real sincerity in her emotional state, teetering between an avalanche of bafflement and cynical resignation. Morton’s is the one fully fleshed character on stage, and she is worth seeing. (Nina Metz)
This production is now closed.