August: Osage County

August: Osage County – Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage – February 8, 2011

August:Osage CountyOne hot summer meltdown (literally & figuratively) in the life of the Weston Family is portrayed in this Tony award winning play by Tracy Letts.   The story plays out over the course of a swelteringly hot summer in the American South as a large family gathers to deal with love, loss, betrayal and intrigue. Throw in a dash of drugs and drinking to this perfect recipe of dark comedic family angst.

Directed for the Arts Club Theatre Company by award winning director/actress Janet Wright (Corner Gas) this production features a large ensemble of seasoned actors who bring this family to life…larger than life at times.  The two female leads bring some truly scenery chewing moments to the stage in the, often loud, battle of wits between matriarch and eldest daughter.  A couple of the characters seemed a bit underwhelming in the shadow of the great force of the leads but overall the cast was solid throughout.  The amazing set, bringing an entire three story house on to the stage, was almost another character as the family’s sense of ‘home’ was questioned throughout the play. Without the solid set to ground the play in reality it may have slipped closer to being a farce. Instead we get to peak into this family’s dramatic unravelling and feel for the characters instead of just laughing at them…although there are many moments of dark laughter throughout the memorable 3 hour performance.

If you are able to see this play live do it now, then you have something to compare the inevitable film version.   You can very much see this play being perfect for a screen adaptation and a movie version is in development.  The latest news is Meryl Streep and Julie Roberts are due to begin filming in March 2011. Let’s wait and see!

Don Quixote – Arts Club Theatre Company

Opening Nights at the theatre are full of anticipation; will you like it, will it be boring, will it be… Even more so when you’re seeing a new work as we did last night at The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage. 
Don Quixote is a collarboration between The Arts Club, Centaur and Axis Theatre Companies. This comedic adaptation by Colin Heath and Peter Anderson of Cervantes classic tome also stars Peter Anderson as the title character.
With inventive sets and costumes, especially the masks by Melody Anderson, take us from a simple stage out into the Spanish countryside or within a castle walls.
Having not read the orginal work I can’t say how true to the story this play followed but it obviously took some liberties as they began to play the dialogue for laughs.  Colin Heath told us, at the Artistic Directors Circle, he found his ‘angle’ in the second volume of the original work, written after the exploits told in the first book have made ‘Don Quixote’ famous throughout Spain, taking the point of view of a story within a story or play within a play in this case.  
The writing, unfortunately, left me a bit wanting, I felt unsure exactly what this play was trying to be, as it wandered from a period drama to buddy/road trip comedy to pantomime, never quite resonating on any level. There seemed to be plenty of laughs from the audience but some of them came very cheaply via out of place toilet humour. Maybe I’m being overly critical but I don’t think I was completely alone in feeling unsatisfied.  
The producers have developed a good structure for this play but still could use a bit more time refining the writing to have a hit.  Afterall, not all plays begin life as an instant ‘classic’ and thanksfully we have companies like The Arts Club Theatre that allow playwrites and producers a place to nurture new works and new ideas.