The Castleton theater department’s production of “August: Osage County” this past weekend was full of twists and surprises.
As one of the characters says, everything happens somewhere in the middle. That couldn’t be more true in this play where everything that happens is somewhere in the middle between sad and happy, funny and horrifying, insane and somewhat less insane.
The set, designed and built by students, was the most elaborate I’ve seen at Castleton. It included three levels and was designed in a way where you could see six distinct scenes within the set. In some scenes, action was occurring in one part and you could still see what was going on in the other rooms. It gave the show more life and reminded you that, like in real life, many important things are going on at the same time.
Another interesting element was how the set acted as a character itself, changing between the three different acts. As the show progressed, the set, the office section in particular, changed to match the new situation. The set was also very detailed with many small books and trinkets covering the shelves, and a china cabinet filled with dishes. Although the play was nearly three hours long, the action was so intense and exciting you hardly noticed.
The male characters looked great with graying and other features that transformed them from college students into middle-aged men. The girls, however, could have used some additional features to show their age. Besides the costumes, the characters in their 30’s and 40’s looked the same age as the ones in their 50’s and 60’s.
A complaint I usually have of shows is that the intense scenes were not loud or powerful enough. I was completely satisfied by the intensity and contrast in this show. It had a great range with very high, loud, crazy moments and then dropping down to quiet, deep ones.
While there are plenty of parts that draw out emotion, there was one part where I actually started to tear up. It might be because silence is so powerful or because I’m a sappy 20-year-old girl, but I almost cried when the character Barbara says “I love you” to her estranged husband Bill as he walks away. He pauses for a few seconds too long before walking out the door, not saying a word. That silence was heavier and more painful than anything he could have said.
There wasn’t a single actor who didn’t do a great job, but a few stood out more than others. It’s hard to say who the lead is, but besides the deceased Beverly Weston, whose death is the catalyst of the entire plot, it would come down to Violet Weston played by Katy Albert or Barbara Fordham played by Jess Poljacik.
Both of these women did amazing jobs portraying their characters. Albert’s character is a pill popper from the start, completely out of her mind and speaking nonsense most of the time. Poljacik’s character starts off as if she is in control of her life, but by the end she has assumed control of her family, lost her husband and is struggling to stay sane.
Karsen Woods played the part of 14-year-old Jean Fordham, a rebellious teenager who thinks she knows better than her parents. Woods played this part very well, convincing the audience she was this young girl.
Meaghan Hakey also deserves recognition for her role as Mattie Fae Akin. Hakey’s character serves as the comic relief in many situations as she nags her husband and tries to help the family.
Finally, the character of Johnna Monevata, played by Lexi Fryover, acts as the silent glue of the entire show. The opening scene is Mr. Weston hiring Monevata as the live-in house keeper to cook, clean and take care of Mrs. Weston. Throughout most of the show, her only appearances are at meal times or when she needs to clean up. It isn’t until Jean Fordham is being supposedly molested by Steve Heidebrecht, played by Garrett Robin, that Monevata steps in and changes the course of the plot. Because of her, many things are brought to light. The family has all left the house and it is just Monevata comforting Mrs. Weston as she cries.
This show was definitely worth watching, despite the length. The audience hardly went a few minutes without gasping or laughing and I think that’s a sign of success.