Saturday, November 25, 2017
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Pulitzer-winning play is a departure for Eight O'Clock Theatre

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Audiences have come to know and love Largo's Eight O'Clock Theatre for its splashy Broadway musicals, but change looms this time of year.

August: Osage County, running through Sunday, is a tragi-comedy about a deep, dark, deliriously dysfunctional family. Directed by Christopher Rutherford, it runs three hours and has two intermissions.

"This is an out-of-the-box show for Eight O'Clock," said Leah Hamilton, marketing director. "We are trying to appeal to new audiences. No other community theaters are doing shows like this."

Linda Woodruff Weir, a theater board member, plays the character of Mattie Fae, a mother whose sordid past drives her to constantly berate her adult son, Little Charles (Jonathan Pouliot).

Weir called the Pulitzer Prize winning play by Tracy Letts "a beautiful piece of work.

"It was something we decided to take a chance on."

Michael Mahoney plays Beverly, patriarch of the Weston family. "I'm glad Eight O'Clock is doing this play. I'm singing impaired and don't do musicals," he joked.

But it's the rich complexity of his tragic character that makes his small but important role so compelling. He opens the play by talking openly about his alcoholism and his wife's drug addiction. It is a mutually acceptable arrangement the couple has come to, one that laid their marriage to rest years ago.

It's his apparent suicide that brings their three daughters and other fragmented family members back together to the family home in Oklahoma where they offer their support as well as their spiteful but witty rants.

Donna Donnelly portrays Violet, Beverly's acidic, pill-popping wife. She's undergoing treatment for oral cancer and even though she's zonked throughout most of the play, she retains an indelible talent for verbal abuse.

"She's toxic and has destroyed the entire family and has no remorse because of her drug addiction. My challenge — because the audience won't like her — is to make her interesting, watchable and fascinating," Donnelly said.

Those who have seen the 2013 movie, starring Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts, will note the play is quite different.

"There is more humor in the play than the movie," said Linda Roth-Grayne, who portrays Barbara, the Westons' oldest daughter who struggles simultaneously with her 14-year-old pothead daughter, her crumbling marriage and her crazy out-of-control mother.

"Some will laugh because the lines are funny. Some will laugh out of embarrassment," Roth-Grayne said.

Ben Taylor is her husband Bill, who is having an affair with one of his students.

"Everyone comes into this house with a secret and how they expose it to the other family a member is what makes the play interesting and fun," he said.

Reach Terri Bryce Reeves at [email protected]

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