San Francisco Bay Area’s Naatak theater company recently produced Tracy Lett’s Pulitzer Prize winning family drama, “August: Osage County”. There are three more shows of this production, in the coming weekend. For tickets, go to http://www.naatak.com
Naatak company was started in 1995, by a group of students and has since grown into the most prominent and largest Indian theater company, in the United States. Naatak produces intelligent and entertaining plays and does not shy away from experimenting and bringing bold productions on stage, always expanding the perspective or largely Indian audience. Naatak plays has increasingly become popular among non-Indian theatergoers as well.
Directed by brilliant Mukund Marathe, this play focuses on insanities and complexities of a highly and off the charts dysfunctional family. Soon after Beverly Weston (Mukund Marathe) hires a live-in cook and caregiver, Johnna (Juhi Mohan), for his cancer afflicted, chain smoker and pills addicted, contentious wife, Violet (Ekta Brahmkshatri), he disappears. Violet is then joined by her sister, Mattie Fae (Mughda Kulkarni) and her husband Charles (Zishan Mohammad) soon to be joined by their son, Little Charles (Ashish Divetia).
Complexity and dysfunctionality multiplies after Violet’s three daughters Ivy (Savitha Sami), living locally, Barbara (Suchitra Bose), and Karen (Sowmya Padmanabhan) appear, at her home. While Ivy is constantly rebuked by her mother for having little taste in adopting ladylike dressing and mannerisms, and for not having a man in her life, Barbara is joined by her estranged husband, Bill (Rajiv Nema), and her teenage daughter, Jean (Emelyn Das), and Karen is joined by her fiance, Steve,(Varun Maker). The stage is set for each person bringing his or her own eccentricity and baggage to this complex family drama.
Original play received several awards including Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony Award for Best Play, New York Drama Critics’ Circle Award and Theatre World Award. It was later produced as a movie by the same name, with a high power cast, but only received a modest commercial success, with mixed to positive reviews and seen by some to be too dark and lacking in humor.
Generally, I love Naatak productions. However, the theme and subject matter of this play were simply not to my liking. The family dysfunctionality exceeded all bounds and was not contained at all, in any kind of meaningful way. Lacking purpose or direction, secrets kept coming out of the shadows, in a curtain drawn house, until it left you exhausted and devastated. Considering that nearly 50% of the cast, was first time on stage, I would give high points to the cast, but story lacks direction, and in the end, it leaves you feeling too drained to care for anything but to wait for the end.