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'AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY'

By by dianna wray/dray@vicad.com
March 9, 2011 at 3:03 p.m.
Updated March 8, 2011 at 9:09 p.m.

James Belcher as Charlie Aiken and Louisa Flaningam as Mattie Fae Aiken in the Alley Theatre production of "August: Osage County."

IF YOU GO

When: Through Sunday

Where: The Alley Theater, 615 Texas Ave., Houston.

Time: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Ticket prices: $40-$61.

Information: www.alleytheatre.org

There are all kinds of ways to rot, and it's safe to say the intelligent, poisonous Weston family shows us all of them during the wonderfully, awfully dark drama "August: Osage County."

Living in Oklahoma may not be appetizing, but, believe me, living with the Weston family on the plains of Oklahoma would be worse.

Be a good person or you'll taste nothing but poison. That's the message of Tracy Letts' Pulitzer Prize winning play.

We all have those moments in life when you'd like nothing more than to lash out at the person you love who has hurt you. Letts' play serves as a warning of the dangers of doing just that.

The play kicks off with Weston patriarch Beverly (who sums up his 30-year marriage at the opening, saying "My wife takes pills, and I drink. That's the deal we've struck.") walking off into the night, away from his acid-tongued wife Violet, never to be seen again.

The rest of the play is devoted to a darkly funny examination of the ties that bind and eviscerate as members of the Weston clan gather to mourn their father.

Everyone has got their problems and over the next three hours, the play turns over the rocks of each character, revealing the pills, booze and various vices each of them uses to cope.

The play was a hit on Broadway winning the aforementioned fancy-schmancy Pulitzer in 2007, but that's not the reason to hoof it down to Houston to check out the Alley Theatre's production.

The dysfunctional Weston family - complete with incest and a lot of good ole fashioned hatred - is the kind of show you can't pass up, and the matriarch, Violet, is a ringmaster you'd never want to cross, but will enjoy watching.

She may be a pill-popping drug addict but anyone who has gone to a family gathering and watched everyone step carefully around the many elephants in the room will find Violet's shrewd, though sometimes brutal truth-telling satisfying.

Besides, after spending hours in a darkened theater watching Violet, the pill-popping center of the storm, do her worst, the fact that Uncle Joe smelled like cooking sherry and threw up on the Thanksgiving turkey last year won't seem so awful.

Get on over to the Alley Theatre to take in the production. New successful plays are kind of rare nowadays. Plays that will actually entertain you - and the Alley knows how to put on a show - are even rarer.

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