Dysfunction and comedy kick off new season at the Playhouse

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August 16th, 2012

Omaha, NE – The season-opening production at the Omaha Community Playhouse follows a dysfunctional family, exploring disease, darkness, death, and amongst it all – comedy.

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August: Osage County is a Pulitzer-prize winning play set in the sweltering heat of August in Oklahoma. The story follows the dysfunctional Weston family, which lives in the small town of Pawhuska. The patriarch is Beverly, an absent alcoholic, and the matriarch is Violet, a dying woman being treated for mouth cancer who is addicted to painkillers and suffers from paranoia.

August: Osage County is the season-opener at the Omaha Community Playhouse, beginning Friday night. (Courtesy photo)

Though it’s filled with drama, the play somehow finds lightness and comedy amid the darkness. In an interview on NPR’s All Things Considered when the play first debuted on Broadway in 2007, the playwright, Tracy Letts, explained how comedy can be found in the darkest parts of our human nature.

“I think the comedy for the most part comes from a very real place,” Letts said. “It comes from the known. I think people laugh at what they recognize. And I think a lot of it, as theatrical as it may be, a lot of it is recognizable human behavior, family behavior.”

“There’s this amazing ability that Tracy Letts seems to have,” said Susan Baer-Collins, associate artistic director at the Omaha Community Playhouse, which is opening a local production of the play this weekend. It “captures so much of the dynamic of what happens in families,” she said, “and how much we can find to laugh at in the midst of this turmoil and tragedy.”

Baer-Collins will also be playing Violet, who she describes as the “slightly insane” matriarch who has had a “horrible upbringing…with an abusive mother.”

“She’s a terrifying character in the play,” Baer-Collins said. “Yet in order to play a part like that, you find everything that there is to love about this person and understand that she’s coping in the only way that she seems to be able to know how.”

Baer-Collins said the depth and quality of the writing in the production has brought some of the finest local actors together to assemble the cast. The play is directed by University of Nebraska Omaha theater professor and seasoned director Amy Lane, and marks the start of the Playhouse’s 2012-2013 season.

August: Osage County opens Friday at the Omaha Community Playhouse’s Howard Drew Theater. The show, which is written for mature audiences, runs through September 16th.

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