Mouth Burns and Manifestos

​Balagan's August: Osage County is a true masterpiece

By Tracy M


August: Osage County, a Pulitzer Prize-winning play by Tracy Letts, embodies issues of identity, family unity, and disengagement, as well as a cultural perspective on hierarchies of power and gender roles within a family's core values. Angelo Domitri's lighting design enhances Ahren Buhmann's perfectly executed stage environment. Your eye wanders around the stage, discovering some of the characteristics that identify the Weston family.

The play is set in 2007 in the town of Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The action takes place throughout the month of August in Beverly and Violet Weston’s house. Beverly, a once renowned and talented poet (played by Charles Leggett), introduces the story and the characters in the play. His sarcasm is palpable from the start. His very first line, T.S. Elliot’s “Life is too long,” tells us a lot about how humor is used to face the problems, issues, and tension throughout the play.

Beverly confesses that his wife has “mouth cancer,” a symbolic metaphor for an illness that is reflected throughout the play by every member of his family. August: Osage County is a play about discoveries, about relationships, about secrets, and about leaving things behind and facing things anew. It is a fast-paced yet extremely engaging play that uses humor to soothe its difficult themes. One of the main characters, Violet Weston, (played by Shelly Shulkin) is a drug and pill addict who suffers from a type of mouth cancer that makes her mouth burn. Upon the disappearance of one of of the main characters in the play, the Weston family comes to visit Violet in an attempt to bond and show support. Such family interactions result in a complete disaster. It is this type of chaos that gives August: Osage County an interesting tone, one with which all members of the audience can identify.

Because deep and difficult subjects are discussed in the play, Letts cleverly utilizes humor infused within the personality of each character to enhance and invigorate the sense of mischief, peculiarity, and intensity within the play. Humor and tragedy are deployed in an effective combination that keeps the audience engaged from beginning to end, wondering what will happen next and what will be any one character's next move. One is eager to witness each event that occurs within the family as secrets are revealed and some family bonds are broken while others are mended. Letts has crafted a true masterpiece that is as powerful as it is inspiring. He makes us think and reflect on our own relationships and the value of family. The production is a powerful manifesto that will make your mind, heart, and mouth “burn” with laughter, tears, and appreciation for those who are present in our lives.

August: Osage County
Through April 27
Balagan Theatre

Recommended for ages 14+
Run time: 3 hours 15 minutes with 2 intermissions
More info at

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