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August: Osage County By Tracy Letts; Directed by Anna D. Shapiro At the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater to Dec. 20
Tracy Letts has set a rip-snorting, fire-breathing matriarchal monster to spewing venom with the same relish Martha brought to spitting invective in Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She’s a keeper, this pill-popping, fiercely enduring Violet Weston—a feverishly addled Estelle Parsons at the KenCen—the sort of character you store away in the memory to trot out when some upstart Medea comes along in a generation or so. August is the sort of family opus Walter Kerr was thinking of years ago when he opined that “parents are going to be vilified on stage for as long as mothers insist on giving birth to playwrights.” But if Letts is traipsing down a time-honored dramatic path, he’s doing so with a whole family’s worth of monsterettes: self-absorbed Karen (Amy Warren), whose primary reason for attending her father’s funeral is to show off her new fiancé; diminutive fireplug Mattie Fae (Libby George) who never met a situation she couldn’t talk into submission; preternaturally passive Ivy (Angelica Torn) bruised and fuming over years spent caring for unappreciative parents; control-freak Barbara (Shannon Cochran) who delivers a game-changing “I’m in charge!” with a ferocity that’s downright Shakespearean. —Bob Mondello [read the full review here]
The Solid Gold Cadillac By Howard Teichmann and George S. Kaufman; Directed by Paul Mullins At Studio Theatre to Jan. 10
You’d think it might have occurred to somebody that a solid gold Caddy would make a pretty unwieldy vehicle. But you can understand the temptation: A suddenly timely ’50s farce about an out-of-work actress who brings down the fat-cat board of America’s biggest company with what starts as a few pointed questions about executive compensation? Starring that dingbat diva, Nancy Robinette? It must have sounded like just the thing to goose the December box office, so you can forgive the Studio Theatre for billing it as a “lost American classic.” The pace is slack enough in Paul Mullins’ production to be actively fatiguing, and the director doesn’t seem to have done anything to focus Robinette’s comic creativity on who her character is and what she’s up to at any given point. A game ensemble supports her where they can (Leo Erickson and Paul L. Nolan do particularly nice work as corporate officers who’d clearly sell each other cheap), and for brief moments you catch glimpses of the kind of pointed character comedy that might’ve emerged with more thought. Without it, and without a stronger hand at the helm, an actress who’s arguably the city’s most gifted purveyor of the double-take is left to faff about in every direction, and to correspondingly little effect. —Trey Graham [read the full review here]