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Drugs, alcohol, emotional abuse and family issues aren’t funny, but FAU’s “August: Osage County” will make you laugh at all of them

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(From left to right sitting) Connie Pezet as Ivy, Kim Ostrenko as Violet, Elizabeth Price as Barbara and Jenna Wyatt as Karen (standing) in "August: Osage County." Image courtesy of FAU Theater Department.

(From left to right sitting) Connie Pezet as Ivy, Kim Ostrenko as Violet, Elizabeth Price as Barbara and Jenna Wyatt as Karen (standing) in “August: Osage County.” Image courtesy of FAU Theater Department.

Craving something a little more intimate than two and a half hours with this summer’s latest blockbuster?

FAU’s Department of Theater and Dance has just the thing: a firsthand look into the Weston family with the theatrical performance of “August: Osage County.” Don’t fret about being bored either. Although there aren’t Michael Bay-esque explosions, this dark comedy has drugs, alcohol, sins of the flesh and drama galore.

In fact, the play opens with patriarch Beverly Weston (David Meldman) with a brown liquor drink in hand and curse words sliding off his tongue. The problems only expand from there.

The plot focuses on the family’s response to Beverly’s suicide as it brings out their own secret problems, and there’s so many it might be hard to keep count. The three daughters of the Weston family — Barbara, Ivy and Karen — each bring their own life dilemmas home, piling on top of the family issues already circling the Weston house. One of such problem serves as one of the main storylines: the drug use of matriarch Violet (Kim Ostrenko).

Violet has been a user and abuser for years. Her personality and manner of relating to those closest to her displays how much of a wedge her addiction has become between her and those she’s supposed to love. Violet’s mood changes at the flip of a switch, and Ostrenko has no problem keeping the reality in the tough role.

“[It] was so subtle but enough that you could see it happen from scene to scene,” said Jordan Mack, a theater major.

Ostrenko left impressions on theater major Ryan Mahanah as well with her ability to be “so mentally unstable for three hours and not fall in and out [of the role].”

Although the play seemed to go by quickly, spending a few hours of Violet was enough. It’s hard to imagine her daughters, particularly Barbara, having to handle her for their entire lifetime.

Price carries the burdens of her character well in her facial expressions and body movement. It’s easy to see Barbara’s frustration and the difference of how she handles her problems versus how Violet does. Although their swear word usage is about the same, albeit deployed in different levels of hilarity.

Acting styles also vary throughout the rest of the characters. Family members are portrayed with such range, varying anywhere between strength such as Ivy (Connie Pezet) to emotionally fickle like Violet (Ostrenko) or the easily excitable Karen (Jenna Wyatt).

“I think it’s some of the best acting anyone in our department has done,” said theater major Samuel Iglehart.

Besides the acting, the play is worth seeing just for the amazing set. According to the scenic designer Melina Oikonomou, the stage is pretty specific in the script, but in giving it their own twist, the design crew “ended up on deciding on fractured realism.”

Daughters Karen (Wyatt), Ivy (Pezet) and Barbara (Price) hold back their emotional mother Violet (Ostrenko). Image courtesy of FAU Theater Department.

Daughters Karen (Wyatt), Ivy (Pezet) and Barbara (Price) hold back their emotional mother Violet (Ostrenko). Image courtesy of FAU Theater Department.

The multi-level stage is set to portray different rooms of a house built in the ‘70s, complete with a sunken living room (think “That ‘70s Show”). The many pieces in the play include large wooden items, like an old woodbox television, a tableware sideboard, a large wood office desk that actually came from Oikonomou’s own office, not to mention the magnificent pull out plaid couch.

While interesting to look at, the set serves to show the stagnance of Beverly and Violet. The play is set in modern times, but the dated decor serves to show how little their lives have progressed (aided by references from Beverly about “all this crap”) even after their children are raised and gone.

The Theater and Dance Department’s performance of “August: Osage County” is impressive and entertaining; however, a review modeled after the play’s own vocabulary would probably fit best: It was really fucking good.

“August: Osage County”is running now through July 26, Fridays and Saturdays at 7 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. in FAU’s Studio One theater. Tickets are $12 for students, $15 for FAU faculty, staff and alumni and $20 for everyone else.

For more information visit www.fau.edu/festivalrep/august-osage-county.php or call 1-800-564-9539.

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