Belfast’s Midcoast Actors’ Studio

Local premiere for ‘August: Osage County’

May 21, 2014
The Weston family sits down to eat in Midcoast Actors' Studio’s “August: Osage County.” Clockwise from front left are Frank John, James Tatgenhorst, Jason Bannister, Shari John, Christine West, Shelly Curtain, Mary Jones, Marie Stickney and James Clayton.

Belfast — Midcoast Actors’ Studio will open the Eastern Maine premiere production of Tracy Letts’ “August: Osage County” Friday night, May 30, for a two-weekend run on the Troy Howard School Stage, 173 Lincolnville Ave./Route 52.

Performances will be Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. through June 8. Both Saturday nights offer the option of a pre-show Oklahoma plains­style dinner at 6 p.m.

“August: Osage County” is one of the most acclaimed plays of the last decade, winning the 2008 Tony Award for Best Play and the Pulitzer Prize for Drama; enjoying enormous success on Broadway; and having a star-studded film adaptation. Letts’ sprawling saga about three generations of an Oklahoma family has drawn comparisons to the work of American dramatists Eugene O’Neill, Sam Shepard and Tennessee Williams.

The fiercely funny and bitingly sad story, which unfolds over the course of several weeks, tells the tale of the Westons, a large extended clan that comes together at their rural Oklahoma homestead when the alcoholic patriarch disappears. Forced to confront unspoken truths and astonishing secrets, the family also must contend with Violet, the acid­tongued, pill­popping mother at the center of this storm. From the very beginning, this dark comedy aggressively exposes the dysfunction of their Midwestern family. The performance contains adult language and subject matter that is not suitable for young children.

“I read the play three or four years ago,” said director Robin Jones. “What struck me is its truth about how some people try to communicate without saying anything at all. It takes place in a huge three­story house and, ironically, most of the people on stage desperately want to escape that house.”

Founder and Artistic Director Jason Bannister said choosing “Osage County” as part of MAS’s 2014 season was a no brainer as it is just the type of edgy, formidable work he wants to produce.

“This is one of the greatest plays of the 21st century,” Bannister said. “The story, the language — it pushes boundaries for the cast and the audience.”

Designing and building the massive house is MAS veteran John Bielenberg. Along with set dresser (and wife) Elaine Bielenberg, they have designed a set that embodies a character alongside the cast.

That cast includes some of the strongest acting talent from Belfast to Blue Hill. Christine West plays matriarch Violet, while Mary Jones takes on her headstrong daughter Barbara. Rounding out the cast are Shari and Frank John, Shelly Curtain, James Tatgenhorst, Marie Stickney, James Clayton, Grace Underhill, Amanda Pomeroy, Rob Bywater, Brian Ross and Bannister.

In addition to Jones and the Bielenbergs, the rest of the production staff includes Bannister as producer, Leah Smith as stage manager, Tom Sadowski as light designer, Jay Rosenberg as sound designer, Jen Maher as costume designer, Angela Bonacasa as fight director and Ivy Lobato and Angela Domenichelli as props supervisors.

The show is three acts and runs three hours, with two intermissions. Tickets are $15 and can be purchased at the door with cash, check or credit card. Reservations can be made by calling the box office at 370­7592 or emailing midcoastactors@gmail.com. Preferential seating is for those who call and reserve.

The Saturday dinner menu includes Oklahoma BBQ pot roast, potatoes, cowboy beans, cornbread, sweet tea and lemonade and watermelon. Dinner is $15 and must be reserved through the box office three days prior to each Saturday.

Midcoast Actors’ Studio is a not-­for-­profit theater group based in Belfast, providing quality theater to the Midcoast of Maine. For more information visit midcoastactors.org or check out the troupe’s Facebook page.

Courier Publications’ A&E Editor Dagney C. Ernest can be reached at (207) 594-4401, ext. 115; or dernest@courierpublicationsllc.com.

Audiences get to eat dinner too, preceding Saturday night performances of the two-weekend run of Midcoast Actors' Studio's “August: Osage County.”
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