Sunday, November 30, 2008

August: Osage County by Tracy Letts, Lyttelton Theatre, 26-Nov-2008 – Directed by Anna D Shapiro

Watching this I found myself having a desire to sneer at it. Certainly people behind me on the night and other reviews since have done that. It wasn't that the play was bad (it was good) or the acting wasn't top notch (it was), it's just that sceptical feeling that I get whenever something comes along laden with awards and over-hyped in previews. It was very much “I'll be the judge of how good it is thank you”. I wouldn't say that the play completely conquered my desire to sneer but I can definitely see what the fuss was all about and I am very glad I saw it.
Of course I do have quibbles. An actor/actress in one of the major parts was initially (and only initially) ACTING and I prefer my acting to be a little less capitalised. It might just have been that that actor/actress took a little time to get a sense of the space he/she was in.
Another rather odd thing was that the I felt that the third act was a little sketchy and underdeveloped. This was in spite of having already watched almost two and a half hours of play. It seemed rather rushed with its loose ends being tied up (or at least brought to some kind of conclusion for the play's sake) in short scenes, characters being sent off and its large leaps in time. There were some interesting plot ideas and developments in the third act -especially the relationship between the matriarch and her eldest daughter – but I didn't think I had enough time to really savour them.
The quibble about which I got the most disproportionately exercised happened in a scene where the three sisters discussed their parents being part of the “Greatest Generation”. You have to understand that I have a strong sense of historical rightness so unintentional anachronisms really annoy me (I'm okay with situations where people deliberately and completely throw history out of the window). The thing is this: the play cannot be set before 2007 (14 year old daughter born during the Clinton administration); the matriarch (according to Wikipedia) is supposed to be 65 meaning she was born in 1942. I believe that the “Greatest Generation” usually refers to those Americans that lived through the depression of the 30s and fought in the Second World War. So if she was born in 1942 the matriarch would not only be more of a “Baby Boomer” (i.e. One of the children of the “Greatest Generation” ) than anything else she also would not have witnessed (as she claims) the depression of the 30s which was effectively ended when America entered the war. It is deeply sad (if only for my personality) that I should feel the need to get annoyed about this but this an American play and Americans are usually obsessed enough about different generations to give them names so why did the writer get it wrong?
I think I need to have a lie down now.

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