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Broadway in Cincinnati’s “Come From Away” is a Rollercoaster of Emotions Ending in Joy

Review By Liz Eichler of ”Come From Away”:  Broadway in Cincinnati

“Come From Away” is one of the most emotional theatre experiences I’ve had in a long time. From the thunderous standing ovation as it opened in Cincinnati last night, you will feel the same. It is a rollercoaster of emotions for people who have vivid memories of September 11, 2001. From the dive into despair and horror, to the twists and turns trying to reach your family members, to the airborne exuberance of knowing your family is safe, to the internal drive to be with a community to share and pray. It is emotional labor, giving birth to joy in humanity.

Beautifully presented by a cast full of warmth and variety with wonderful charming Celtic style music, this show will touch your heart in many ways. It is the story of America that day, and the distinct differences of our neighbors to the north.   “Come From Away” is the story of the 38 planes who were diverted to the airport in remote Newfoundland, Canada, when all airspace was closed for days after the 9/11 bombings. Almost 6,000 people landed in a tiny island town which was up to the task. Newfies (people from Newfoundland) are some of the kindest, most giving people on the planet. They were united by their culture and community and naturally shared their homes, food, and hearts, understanding people lost and in pain.

Book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein, it was workshopped in 2012 in Toronto and finally made it to Broadway in 2017, where it was nominated for seven awards including Best Musical, Best Original Score, Best Book of a Musical and Best Featured Actress in a Musical, and won Best Direction of a Musical for Christopher Ashley.

That stellar direction lives on this this touring version, with the cast knowing every inch of the set (designed by Beowulf Boritt) making chairs and backdrop come alive as airplanes, cliffs, beds, and myriad of other places. 

The individual and group stories are told by a cast of twelve playing multiple roles, swiftly and seamlessly, so it is a true ensemble effort. So many characters stood out. But shout outs to Marika Aubrey (Beverley the Captain), Kevin Carolan (Claude the Mayor), James Earl Jones II (Bob and others), Julie Johnson (Beulah and others), gosh, and just all of the performers who showed the love on stage.  

“Prayer” is an uplifting moment as passengers of many faiths worship together, “Screech In” is one of the many joyful songs reflecting the revelry of the island people. “I am Here” captures the empty space of not knowing where your loved one was, at a time many still did not have cell phones. 

A great highlight after the show is when the live band comes out from the wings playing the fiddles, pipes, and drums, treating us to some Newfoundler music. 

When I see a new musical, I oddly wonder how it will translate to the high school and college productions. This will be a challenge and a joy for any school community, and will continue to pass on this very important story of the people who showed our hearts will go on, despite evil in this world.

“Come From Away” is here is Cincinnati through September 29, as part of the Broadway in Cincinnati series.  Produced without an intermission, it soars. Contact for tickets. 

Broadway in Cincinnati’s “Come From Away” Lands Close To Home

Review by Nathan Top of “Come From Away”: Broadway in Cincinnati

I am often skeptical of stories told with 9/11 as their backdrop, primarily because I have my own story of where I was when it took place in 2001. I remember where I was, who I was with, and what I felt at that time so naturally I hesitate to relive one of the saddest defining moments of my generation, in any medium. That said, I am incredibly grateful for the experience that was “Come From Away.”

A joyous and moving contemporary musical, “Come From Away” tells the true story of what happened during the week following 9/11 when thirty-eight planes landed in the small town of Gander in Canada, following the airline patrons who found themselves stranded and the townsfolk who welcomed, cared for, and comforted them. As the show begins, the audience immediately swept into the world of Gander and the problem that faces them. How are they going to house, feed, clothe seven thousand people? The rest of the show is basically watching the townsfolk perform a miracle on the scale of loaves and fishes for the stranded passengers.

An intimate cast of twelve invites the audience to sit and listen to a story, several stories actually, of where they were and who they were with on 9/11. Similar to Thorton Wilder’s classic play, ‘Our Town,’ ‘Come From Away’ unveils an entire world of determined, kind, and very real humans, with each actor playing multiple characters, even within the same scene. With only the use of a simple set, twelve chairs, two tables, a backdrop, and a few props, the world that feels as big and colorful as, well, the ‘Rock’ of  Newfoundland. The show breezes by at an hour and forty minutes with no intermission and was captivating throughout. 

The cast is a finely tuned machine with every gear in its rightful and necessary place. Each actor is an athlete, singing, dancing, changing roles, speaking with different accents, changing costumes, connecting, all at a rapid pace and in front of a live audience. Whether or not you are a trained actor, this is hard to do. As an audience member, I was guided by these storytellers through an emotional journey, from laughing to crying, back to laughing with tears still streaming down my face. Exploring themes of feminism, LGBT, religion, and identity, the script never gets preachy or melodramatic. This is a true story about real people who live in the same world that we do. Watching Marika Aubrey and the rest of the female actors tell the story of trailblazing pilot Beverley Bass and the glass ceiling she shattered to become the first female captain of an American Airlines aircraft (“Me and the Sky”) was a highlight of the evening.

The pit is exquisite, capturing the energy and life of the Celtic-influenced score. From start to end, I can count the number of minutes on one hand that the pit was not playing. The show is basically one long, nearly continuous musical piece, requiring the focus and stamina similar to a major symphonic work; not to mention, the show ends with a pit-wide jam, and these musicians killed it.

Almost reluctantly, I found this piece of live theater incredibly moving. Somewhere during the show, I came to the realization: They were telling our story. Actually, they were telling my story. Not necessarily of where I was or what I experienced during 9/11 but what it meant to be human, what it was to connect, to love, to grieve, and to lift each other above one of the saddest moments in history. This musical is a reminder that despite the obstacles and heartbreaks we face, the world is becoming a better place because of the people who choose to make it that way.

“Come From Away” runs now through September 29th at the Aronoff Center.

Broadway in Cincinnati’s “Come From Away” Searches for Comfort in the Most Uncomfortable of Times

Review by Sheldon Polonsky of “Come From Away”: Broadway in Cincinnati

Cincinnati’s Broadway Series begins its 2019-20 season with the timely, moving and critically acclaimed musical “Come From Away,” (book, music and lyrics by Irene Sankoff and David Hein) based on events surrounding the 9/11 terrorist attacks, when 38 planes and hundreds of travelers were diverted and stranded for several days in the small town of Gander, Newfoundland. The characters and stories (and even some of the names) come directly from interviews with the passengers and the Gander residents who welcomed and befriended them despite the unimaginably difficult circumstances.

“Come From Away” is entirely an ensemble piece with a cast of (incredibly) only 12 actors portraying dozens of characters–Canadian, American, and international–and their ability to shift between personas and dialects at a moment’s notice is dizzying (sometimes literally, as stories unfold on a turntable). The actors’ success in bringing these characters to life and differentiating them with only minimum costume cues was a truly monumental task. In addition, the set (designed by Beowulf Boritt) was eerily evocative despite being composed mainly of constantly shifting chairs and tables. Altogether this kaleidoscope required seamless timing and precision which the cast provided without missing a beat.

Because of its ensemble nature, it’s hard to single out many specific actors, but some memorable portrayals included Hannah (Danielle K. Thomas) whose ballad “I Am Here” reflects her agonized anxiety about the fate of her fire-fighting son; Beverley (Marika Aubrey), a female pilot whose moving number “Me and the Sky” ends with a heart-rending jolt; and Beulah (Julie Johnson), who serves as the emotional center of the Gander residents. Other “unsung” heroes include the band, who played in the background but got to showcase their talents more directly in the finale with their eclectic group of instruments including the unusual “Uilleann Pipes”, “Bodhran” and “Bouzouki”.

Now for the hard part of this review. Going in I had reservations–would this material be enough to hold a full Broadway musical? Would it do justice to our wrenching memories of 9/11? Unfortunately, for me, my reservations were not entirely put to rest. I could not help but compare “Come From Away” to two other ensemble Broadway musicals that brought together a group of strangers under stressful circumstances–“A Chorus Line” and “Titanic”. The former succeeded by intensely personalizing each character’s story; the latter failed to do so. For me, “Come From Away” seemed more like the latter, and I felt vaguely disconnected and distracted from the sheer number of stories and characters. I also could not help but feel awkward as we laughed at some of the quips or clapped at the bar-dancing as the natives initiated the “come from aways”, thinking about the torments of those left behind in New York.

But, assuredly, based on the enthusiastic response of the audience and its critical and box-office success, it’s fair to say that I am in the minority. And even my misgivings hardly undermined my enjoyment of the production and certainly not my estimation of its value and good-heartedness. Fundamentally, “Come From Away” is about the resiliency of the human spirit, our ability to transcend tragedy and find something to celebrate even in the bleakest of times. Perhaps we all need more of that today, as we did eighteen years ago on that tragic day.

“Come From Away” plays through September 29th at the Aronoff Center. Tickets can be obtained online at

Human Race’s “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” Reveals Struggled and Triumphs of Iconic Jazz Singer

Review by Jenifer Moore of ”Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”: Humsn Race Theatre

What becomes of the one greatest contributors to the history of jazz following a turbulent life of abuse, prejudice, and addiction? This is a question that the Human Race Theatre Company skillfully answers with “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” now playing until September 29  at the Metropolitan Art Center’s Loft Theatre in downtown Dayton, Ohio. 

The play, directed by HRTC Founding Resident Artist Scott Stoney,  follows Billie Holiday, or “Lady Day”, in 1959 during one of her final performances at a shoddy bar in South Philadelphia. Day, given the nickname by her friend and music partner Lester Young recounts her rough childhood, stormy love affairs, and racist experiences as an African American performing artist over the course of 80 minutes in the season opener of the company’s 33rd season, rightfully titled “Women of Influence: Their Power, Passions & Pitfalls.”

Chicago native Tanesha Gary is raw, unfiltered and ravishing in her portrayal as Day at a time where women entertainers–especially African American—were expected to be prim and refined.  At the play’s onset, Gary saunters onto an intimately constructed stage in true Lady Day style wearing a regal long white dress with satin gloves and her signature gardenia pinned to her wrist. Accompanied by the Jimmy Peters jazz trio (who happen to be local to the Dayton area), she takes a drink of something strong, dark and neat to get the mood going and proceeds to take us on a musical journey of her life in an effort to prove that she still has the ‘it’ factor.  

Gary’s soulful renditions of Day’s famous songs such as “Strange Fruit,” “God Bless the Child,”  and “When a Woman Loves a Man,” are to be expected part of the play. However, Gary’s authentic and heart wrenching portrayal of Day performing the songs is a welcomed surprise. The pain, anguish, and hope shown in the performance of these songs and others can be felt like a knife to the chest while watching someone speedingly fall from grace due to life’s circumstances. Troubles including arrests for drug possession and abusive relationships at the height of her success begin to diminish her legacy. Coupled with the struggles of black entertainers in the 1950s where they are good enough to sing and dance, but not to use the restroom and sit in the dining room for a meal, make a recipe for disaster in her final performances. Much like the theatre’s title season, you can expect to be delighted at the strength her voice delivers but saddened as you realize what it took to get her to this emotionally fragile stage. 

The simplicity of the set with the band instruments and a single mic surrounded by five tables each with a couple of chairs draw audiences in giving off the view of the show similar to lounges and nightclubs in the 1950s and 60s. Playwright Lanie Robertson’s incredible foresight to connect the music to drawn out and incoherent monologues of Day’s life experience as she spirals downward invites audiences to see how music can be healing in a time of turmoil. Day’s resentments bubble to the surface in the culmination of the play where she ultimately fades into the darkness of defeat. However, Day’s pioneering vocal style throughout her 30-year career will be remembered in the hearts of music lovers forever. 

“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”  is a part of the Human Race Theatre’s Woman of Influence season and runs until September 29. Tickets and more information are available at or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630, and at the Schuster Center box office.

The Know Theater Blasts Off to the Year 2088 with “The Absentee”

Review by John Woll of “The Absentee”: Know Theatre

The Know Theatre‘s newest production,”The Absentee”, by Julia Doolittle, begins its 2019-2020 season with a bang in a futuristic journey to outer space.

The time is 2088 and far out in the Milky Way in Dimension 9, a U.S. Space Force ship explodes and brings space travel to a standstill. We see Operator (Jordan Trovillion) aboard her spacecraft in Beacon 44.AR.90 on an isolated one woman space mission. She is assisted by her Artificial Intelligence Beacon (A.J. Baldwin) who will at times brilliantly take on the persona of the her ex-girlfriend, but is set to turn itself off to avoid too personal connection with it’ operator. Space force code prevents the Operator from revealing her full name and she is completely devoid of any human interaction other than the occasional brief command by her superior Lieutenant Zala (Hannah Jones). Deep space wifi-connection is poor and she gets no access to the news on earth.

That is, until she gets an unlikely phone call from a tenatious political campaign volunteer Glenn (Nathan Tubbs) who is eager to persuade her to vote via an intergalactic absentee ballot.

She has been in space alone since her girlfriend passed away from a new disease. In 6 months she will return to Earth, only to immediately return to space for 4 more missions. But as time goes on, thru her connection with a persistent campaigner over the phone, we learn of her past, her hopes, her desires and ultimately her fear for the future.

These actors are at the top of their game. Jordan plays the role of Operator with tremendous grit, tenacity, edge and heart.  Her storytelling and angst drove the show on an intergalactic journey of escape from grief with some excellent light and comedic moments. Her connection with Glenn is the perfect mix of wit and sass. It is a volley of topics that soon turn from political to personal.

Nathan Tubbs is exuberant, energetic and passionate in his insightful push of the presidential campaign of Senator Huerta. His Glenn is not stuck in one place the whole show, but full of movement, color and depth. His delivery was bright and upbeat in a warm and sincerely passionate performance.

A.I. Beacon adds brilliant nuance and power to her adaptive robotic persona. Move over Alexa and Siri because she will play you a song, teach you a dance class and re-enact an old episode of Bob Ross. A.J. Baldwin is a definite swipe right.

This scenic design is Amazing! Kudos to Andrew J. Hungerford for creating such a tight and surprising set. A great mix 60’s futurism with pops of somewhat dystopian technology. The video and sound effects designed by Doug Borntrager were captivating with a sense of humor. Noelle Wedig-Johnston’s costuming was perfectly futuristic and utilitarian. Under the direction of Kate Bergstrom everything just works!

In today’s political climate, current discussions tend to run in circles. “The Absentee” is an escape to a future that asks the questions of democratic engagement that we need to be thinking about in a brilliant story by Julia Doolittle full of futuristic human elements, self-discovery and an ending that will have you on the edge of your seat!

“The Absentee” runs thru October 5th at the Know Theatre of Cincinnati with a special National Voter Registration Day After Party on the 24th.

Don’t miss this riveting 80 min (no intermission) unique launch to another space and time!


Review By David Brush of “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”: Human Race Theatre

The bio-musical of musical artists is all the rage these days. With the recent success of “The Cher Show” and the upcoming “Tina” opening on Broadway, it seems “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” — a 1986 play with music by Lanie Robertson — was decidedly a great deal ahead of its time. After a wildly successful Audra McDonald-led Broadway revival in 2014 (and subsequent HBO airing), this inventive piece recreates one of Billie Holiday’s final concert appearances in the titular South Philadelphia bar in 1959. As the Human Race Theatre’s female-centric season opener (continuing through September 29), the brilliantly directed and fluidly performed show resonates in ways perhaps it never has been before.  The intimacy of this piece – which places the audience as patrons of the run-down Emerson’s – is the key to its urgency. As audience members, we are not merely watching a standard linear biopic approach but are instead thrown into the thick of things as participants to the legendary Holiday’s life and work. This play with music also uses Holiday to direct our attention to a systemic American racial divide as well as she publicly recounts such instances. The haunting “Strange Fruit” is a highlight and a reminder of Holiday’s strength and charisma.

Tanesha Gary as Billie Holiday in Human Race’s “Lady Day at Emerson”s Bar & Grill”

Bear in mind, dear audiences, that under Scott Stoney’s fluid direction, Robertson’s writing does not sugarcoat Holiday. All of the charm is there, yes – but so is the tawdry, throw-caution-to-the-wind core that defined both her life and career. It’s refreshing, honestly – and a lesson that more contemporary bio-musicals can glean from Robertson’s honesty. And under the always watchful eye of The Human Race and the added intimacy of The Loft, it’s as if “Lady Day” was written for this company in this space at this time.

And let’s discuss the luminescent Tanesha Gary whose performance as Holiday is nothing short of a master class in character embodiment. She is particularly poignant as Holiday begins to deteriorate. The star of this production, however, is the music. Gary’s nuanced vocals are supported by one of the tightest jazz trios I’ve heard in years – Keigo Hirakawa, Eddie Brookshire and Dayton’s legendary Deron Bell Sr. Additionally, the inspired idea to use Bell Sr. to serve as music director makes the piece decidedly Dayton – and decidedly relevant again. THIS is what great theatre companies do – understand their constituents and then program and design accordingly. (As I sat in the audience, I could not help but feel that – after the crushing summer this city has seen – the Human Race is providing a much-needed salve with a piece that celebrates humanity at its best – in a time where we often only see its worst.)

The warmth of Scott J Kimmins’ scenic design and John Rensel’s lighting design create a more than appropriate ambience that allows audience members to settle in at Emerson’s as Holiday herself does. “Lady Day” by way of The Human Race is an intimate portrait of an artist and the country who – for better or worse – shaped her. This production hits all of those notes.

Tickets and performance information for “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill” are available at or by calling Ticket Center Stage at (937) 228-3630, and at the Schuster Center box office. Performances continue through September 29.

Comedy, Science-Fiction, and Politics collide in Know’s “The Absentee”

Review by Christiana Molldrem Harkulich of “The Absentee”: Know Theatre

What would you do if you were alone in outer space for an extended period of time with nothing to do? Know Theatre’s world premiere of Julia Doolittle’s “The Absentee” takes on that question and more. The year is 2088 and the Operator of a beacon, a toll station for space traffic, is stuck without anything to do and anyone to communicate with because an accident in space has delayed all traffic. Kate Bergstrom deftly directs this 90-minute science-fiction play, which is by turns hilarious and full of pathos.

AJ Baldwin as Beacon and Jordan Trovillion as Operator in “The Absentee”

Doolittle’s Operator (Jordan Trovillion) is a working-class queer woman in space. There is a quotidian quality to the play; space is no longer the great frontier or even the wild west. Space is a highway with an accident that has shut down the road. Despite being set in the future, “The Absentee” is populated by characters who are close and familiar. Trovillion’s Operator is sardonic, funny, and complicated, and carries the play. Trovillion makes you care about this broken, smart-mouthed person who has chosen to live by herself in space, rather than deal with her issues on earth. 

While the Operator is waiting, she receives a phone call that will be all too familiar in the coming months, a volunteer campaign support call from Glenn with Huerta for America (Nathan Tubbs), because 2088 is an election year and you can vote absentee from space. Before you groan about a play about politics, there is something wonderful about Doolittle’s choice to remove our political situation from the immediate divisions of our current society. It gives the play’s message and ideas room to breath. This is not a satire but a comedic reflection on the power of making your voice heard while simultaneously asking if you scream in space can anyone hear you.

Tubbs’ Glenn is full of earnest hope, in contrast to the Operator who he calls Ripley (a sly reference to other sci-fi narratives of women alone in space), since Beacon operators don’t give out their real name in compliance with the Space Force code. In contrast to Glenn’s optimism, the Operator also has interactions with the beacon’s by-the-book Artificial Intelligence (played with excellent comic timing by AJ Baldwin), and the pragmatic Lieutenant Zala of the government clean-up ship (a serious and believable Hannah Jones). The staging (including choreography by Darnelle Pierre Benjamin) is very smart throughout, letting us see how important connection is when you are alone.

The design team does a wonderful job creating the world of the Beacon. Scenic and Lighting Designer Andrew Hungerford (who is also Know Theatre’s Producing Artistic Director) creates a stunning moment of the nearest star rising through the beacon’s windows that instantly set the tone for the play (warning: this show uses strobe light). Doug Borntrager’s sound and video design completes the ambient environment, and provides several great jokes. Of particular note is the hilarious song that the Operator creates from a recording of her cursing. The costumes, by Noelle Wedig-Johnston, are pitch-perfect — especially Glenn’s volunteer political campaigner outfit.

At heart, every science fiction story from “Alien” to “Westworld” is really about what makes us human, and “The Absentee” is no different. Glenn has a speech about humanity and democracy towards the end of the play that is reminiscent of the best parts of “Independence Day” and “The West Wing”, and brought me (and the folks sitting on either side of me) to tears.  Through the play’s twists and turns, and very high stakes (things can so quickly go wrong for life in space!), “The Absentee” asks the audience to think about how political choices really do make an impact on the larger world, and why your vote — even from space — can matter. To that end, Know has partnered with both The League of Women Voters of the Cincinnati area and the Cincinnati house of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, and they’ll be hosting a few voter registration drives for the community and audience as part of the run of the show.

This show will give you lots to think about as we all go together into the coming election year, don’t miss it! “The Absentee” runs now til October 5th at The Know Theatre of Cincinnati. Tickets can be purchased here

An Unhappy Family Erupts at Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s “August: Osage County”

Review by Christiana Molldrem Harkulich of “August: Osage County”- Cincinnati Shakespeare Company

Tolstoy wrote that all happy families are the same, and that every unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. In the Cincinnati Shakespeare Company’s  “August: Osage County”, that adage plays out on stage for the Weston family. Over the course of three acts (and over three hours) the troubles of the Weston clan unfold and unravel, until the entire family structure is dissolved. Directed by Producing Artistic Director Brian Isaac Phillips, Tracy Lett’s Pulitzer prize-winning play, which premiered in 2007, still packs a punch (sometimes literally) and keeps the audience on the edge of their seats with laughter and horror over the complicated relationships that make up the Weston family.

Lett’s writes “August: Osage County” in the tradition of Chekov’s “Cherry Orchard“ and O’Neil’s “Long Days Journey Into Night”: an ensemble drama about the private tragedies of an unhappy family brought back together by tragic events. The first act introduces the problem–Beverly Weston (Jim Hopkins), the alcoholic patriarch of the family, has hired Johnna Monevata (played with gravity by Isabella Star LaBlanc), a Cheyenne woman, to be a live-in cook and caretaker for his addict wife, Violet (Leslie Brott). Then the patriarch leaves the home–bringing two of his daughters and brother and sister-in-law back to comfort his wife. The opening act is the slowest of the three.  But, friends, please do not worry about the next few hours as a tedious evening in theatre (I am personally always wary of a three act, over three-hour play)–this production will grab your attention and not let go till the evening is over.  

The second act opens with the entire family back together, and leads with a comedic aria perfectly timed by Maggie Lou Rader as Karen Weston, the flightiest of the three Weston Sisters. Rader’s mastery of this scene, and comedic timing with napkins, sets the fast, funny and vicious tone for the rest of the evening. No family drama is complete without a meal, and the dinner in the second act is one of the finest paced and staged dinner scenes I have seen. When Uncle Charles, played expertly by Barry Mulholland, delivers Grace before the meal the entire audience was in stitches. Mulholland was one of many standouts in this ensemble cast. Kelly Mengelkoch, who we last saw at CSC as the bold Miss Holmes, becomes the believable wallflower sister Ivy. One of the wonderful things about the ensemble model that Cincinnati Shakespeare Company uses is that the audience gets to experience the wide range of roles that actors can play over the course of multiple seasons.

The engine of this play, however, is not the ensemble, but rather the dueling matriarchs Violet Weston and her favorite daughter Barbara (Corinne Mohlenhoff). Mohlenhoff’s Barbara is by turns reserved, violent, darkly comic, and powerful, and a match to the pill-induced vicious madness of of Brott’s Violet. If you’ve seen the 2013 film adaptation of “August: Osage County”, Julia Roberts and Meryl Streep played these two characters, but the film doesn’t give those actors the space and time for the muscularity that Mohlenhoff and Brott bring to the roles. 

What is public and what is private in the life of a family? I found myself wondering about that boundary often throughout the play, but especially as I contemplated Shannon Moore’s stunning and detailed set. Moore’s work invites us into the sprawling Weston Home in Oklahoma, but not too far in. There are three detailed floors crammed into the intimate Otto M. Buddig theatre, but Moore has cleverly only exposed the public areas–the dining room, living room and hallways. Other than Johnna’s attic and Beverly’s office, the private rooms of the family are closed to us. We can never really know what happens behind closed doors, just like we can never really know an addict’s struggle or why a marriage fails. Justen N. Locke’s lighting made the space feel as warm and oppressive as the un-air-conditioned, shuttered house in August should feel.  

Many things have changed in the world since this play premiered at Steppenwolf in Chicago in 2007. The stories of addiction and abuse resonate differently during the opioid crisis, and the sexual coercion by one of the male characters towards Barbara’s 14-year-old daughter Jean (the splendid debut of Kayla Temshiv) feel more timely and hit harder than they did a decade ago. I will be thinking about this play and this performance for a while, and considering what the breakdown of the white family, supported by a Native American woman, means for us today. Oklahoma, after all, was originally the territory where so many tribes were removed to before it became a state. I was happy to see that CSC included a land acknowledgement in the program, and I hope they’ll continue that practice for their whole season. 

“August: Osage County” runs through September 28th, and it is well-worth your time  to go see this thoughtful, moving, hilarious, and tragic production. You can purchase tickets here.