Pocket Review, Title August: Osage County, Studio The Weinstein Company, Rating 2.5,
August: Osage County is a tale of a family that lives in inherited emotional pain, most of them whom lash out and hurt rather than coming to help each other. There is some hint of redemption: Two in this circle become lovers, almost too late in life, finally finding some solace in each other and starting to create a life for themselves, moving against the unloving spirit that surrounds them.
The story is ambitious in the tradition of Eugene O’Neill or Tennessee Williams, who, at their best, depicted such dysfunctional families with great feeling and insight. Some of the performances are excellent, particularly those of Cris Cooper, Margo Martindale, and Meryl Streep.
[Spoiler alert.] Yet in the penultimate scene, the lovers are suddenly and painfully revealed to be an unknowingly incestuous brother and barren sister, marked unfairly as intractably immoral, and given no reprieve by their relations. Really? In the end, the ever-present mean-spiritedness came across to me as contrived and overly melodramatic, and felt as if it was directed towards the audience. Tracy Lett, who adapted her own play, turns the knife too often, promising but withholding cathartic release.
The chorus for this aspiring Greek tragedy began the story keeping a strict hexameter, but missed a few too many drumbeats at the end, perhaps jarred by a disbelief in the final twists and turns of the story. It turns out to be hard to imitate Sophocles in the 21st century.
There is just no exit from the hell of Osage County.