August: Osage County at Backyard Renaissance

A True Theatre Master Class 

A Blog View by Alejandra Enciso-Dardashti 

The cast of August: Osage County. Photo Pine & Pebble Photography

There are those precious and rare moments when a production transcends the boundaries of the stage, captivating the audience and leaving an indelible mark. Known for its audacious endeavors, Backyard Renaissance left us cackling in March with Yasmina Reza's  God of Carnage and now, once again, they have delivered an unforgettable experience, with the second show of their 8th season, the production of Tracy Letts' August: Osage County, showcasing a play that resonates with raw emotions and fierce artistry.

The play premiered at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago in 2007, and won the Pulitzer Prize for drama in 2008, the same year it went to Broadway. The film version came out in 2013 starring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, and Juliette Lewis along a runway of celebrities. Oh! and I am adding a little revision here, this movie's score was composed by the Argentinian Oscar winner, Gustavo Santaolalla. 

Skillfully directed by Francis Gercke, BRTC's production is a true master class in theatre. Starting with the first thing people see as they walk in: Tony Cucuzzella's set design, made up of three floors, and a porch, introducing the Weston family household. A somber, mysterious air fills the room, as the color palette of browns and greens embraces that seasoned Oklahoma home. 

Robert Smyth, Deborah Gilmour Smyth, and Faith Carrion. Photo Pine & Pebble Photography

The story begins with the family patriarch Beverly Weston (Robert Smyth) giving instructions to the new house cook Johnna Monevata (Faith Carrion) who will also be living at the Weston manor and taking care of Mrs.Weston (Deborah Gilmour Smyth). Johnna settles in and a couple of days later, Beverly goes missing. Ivy (Megan Carmitchel), the daughter that lives locally, immediately goes to the house to see how her mom is doing and what has been done with the police report. Her two sisters Barbara and Karen follow. Barbara (Jessica John), with her husband Bill (John DeCarlo), and their daughter Jean (Ava Smithmier). Karen brings her fiancee Steve (Rob Lufty). Violet's sister Mattie Fae (Maggie Carney) also joins with her husband Charles (Jacob Bruce). They have a 37-year-old son that the family still calls "little Charles" (Anthony Methvin). As Beverly's case evolves, the town sheriff. Officer Deon Gilbeau (Justing Lang) goes back and forth to deliver updates. 

So... we are talking about a cast of twelve actors, finely directed, who bring Letts' complex characters to life with stunning precision. The synergy among them is palpable, resulting in a seamless ensemble that elevates the entire production to new heights. Every single cast member has a moment -or more- to showcase their talent and grip, making this a memorable night of amazing theatre. For people who are familiar with the San Diego theatre scene, seeing power couple Deborah Gilmour Smyth and Robert Smyth on stage is an absolute treat in a special dimension. The show is three hours and thirty minutes long including two ten-minute intermissions. One might hesitate at the thought of enduring a three-hour-and-thirty-minute performance with two intermissions. However, time becomes a fleeting concept as the narrative unfolds. With each passing hour, the sense of immersion intensifies, and the audience becomes fully engrossed in the turbulent lives of the Weston family. The pacing is flawlessly executed, making every minute feel purposeful. As the story unravels, the emotional roller coaster takes hold, leaving the spectators in awe of the power and depth of human emotions on display. Another added value: The room became so hot, that we all felt that Oklahoma heat... 

Maggie Carney, Jessica John, John DeCarlo, Jacob Bruce, and Deborah Gilmour Smyth 
Photo Pine & Pebble Photography

The set design and direction work in harmony to create a visceral experience for the audience. The stage becomes a microcosm of the Weston family's turbulent world, reflecting their internal conflicts and unraveling relationships. There is great attention to detail from the meticulously crafted set pieces to Erik Montierth's evocative lighting that sets the mood for each scene while boosting key moments with surprise and contrast. Gercke's direction along with associate director Hannah Meade skillfully takes those twelve bodies through the play's intense moments of drama which make the audience remain fully engaged throughout.

August, Osage County is a  journey of incredible twists and turns. Tracy Letts' script, is filled with sharp dialogue and poignant monologues. Every revelation and confrontation is executed with a raw intensity that lingers long. Backyard Renaissance's production is a triumph of theater. Pushing boundaries and creating unforgettable experiences. 

Prepare to be moved, shaken, and put upside down with this cannonball of emotions and shocking twists. An absolute must-see. There are a few opportunities to catch it so click here for performance dates and times. 

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