Play takes searing look at family dynamics

Published 7:38 pm Friday, March 15, 2019

A family in crisis is at the heart of LaGrange College Theatre’s production of “August: Osage County,” running March 20-24 at Price Theater.

The play won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for drama, as well as that year’s Tony Award for best play.

There will be some familiar faces on the stage of Price. Professor Kim Barber Knoll, coordinator of the Theatre Arts Program; Tracy Clahan Riggs, Theatre Arts instructor; and John Williams, retired English professor, will be performing with students to bring Tracy Letts’ tragic comedy to life.  Knoll and Riggs have teamed up to direct the show, and they said it has been a challenge and a joy.

“August: Osage County” is set in the large country home of Beverly and Violet Weston in Pawhuska, Oklahoma. The family gathers after the disappearance of the family patriarch, Beverly. Knoll portrays his wife, while Riggs plays Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae.

“Violet is quite a character,” Knoll said. “She is a force to be reckoned with. She and her husband have been left to just themselves in their house for many years. Violet feels a great sense of abandonment and Beverly harbors a deep secret.  A crisis brings the family home and many secrets are revealed.

“This material is extremely intense and powerful, but laced with humor,” Knoll said. “The characters are multi-dimensional and flawed, and each of them makes choices and lives and deals with the consequences.”

Riggs said each character is carefully and purposefully written.

“She and Violet grew up looking out for each other,” Riggs said. “But Mattie Fae got married and moved to Tulsa, so the sisters lost touch. They have developed their own coping mechanisms for dealing with their families.”

Mattie Fae’s husband, Charlie, is played by Williams.

“I think Charlie is the most solid, morally,” Williams said. “He tries to hold everything together and can’t understand why things got so bad with this family. He is deeply disturbed by the cruelty.”

Senior Leigh Anne Hamlin plays Barbara, the third Weston daughter.

“This is one of the most challenging roles I’ve ever played,” Hamlin said. “Barbara is the mother of a 14 year-old daughter, and she has many years and life experiences on me.”

Leigh Anne said one of the greatest challenges was working on her character’s grounded-ness and grit.

Barbara’s husband is played by senior Eli Grant, and he said it’s been eye opening to portray this husband and father.

“He and Barbara are struggling to raise their daughter Jean (Rachel Cartwright), while dealing with a break in their relationship,” Grant. “He has only come home with Barbara to support her during this crisis.”

Ivy, the Weston’s middle daughter is quiet – and complicated, said junior Laine Fletcher.

“Ivy has taken on the role of caregiver for her parents,” Laine said. “She’s proud of that but feels it’s her turn to live. She also has a secret that could tear the family apart.”

The youngest Weston daughter, Karen, is portrayed by senior Ellie Boykin.

“Karen is the disconnected sister who lives in Miami.  She brings her smooth operator fiancé, Steve, played by Kyle Hildebrand, home to the madness,” Ellie said. “She is a self-help enthusiast, but I think that is just her way of coping with all the chaos.”

The play is in three acts with two short intermissions.

“Each act could almost be a play within itself,” Riggs said. “This show is very physical and emotional – it takes a lot of stamina for all of us to make it through to the end.”

Knoll said the play is raw with explicit language and subject matter.  “We train and expose students to all genres, including thought-provoking, contemporary material.”

The cast also features John Riggs as the patriarch Beverly Weston, Cole Reihing as Mattie Fae and Charlie’s son, Little Charles, Savanna Hicks as Johnna and Jack McCormack as Sheriff Deon Gilbeau.

Although there are dark elements in the show, it also has humor.

“The play is a real rollercoaster of emotions,” Hamlin said. “It is so tragic and yet so beautiful.”

Note: Explicit language and mature situations. Children and pre-teens will not be admitted.

“August: Osage County” runs March 20-24 with shows at 7 p.m. Wednesday through Saturday, and a 2:30 p.m. Sunday matinee. Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for senior citizens (55 and older) and non-LC students and free for LC students faculty and staff. 

The box office is open weekdays from noon until 4 p.m. Email the box office to make reservations at and note your name, the performance date/time and number of tickets desired, type of tickets and a call-back number and email address for confirmation.