Turbulence as dark comedy

Tarishi Verma, 18th July, Deccan Herald

August: Osage County, directed by actor-director Lillete Dubey was staged at Epicentre recently. The play, originally written by Tracy Letts, is a recipient of the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for Drama. It first played in Chicago and then made news on Broadway.

Darkly comic but also violent and sad, this play explores the painful issues all families have to face, in an absolutely entrancing, agonizing and viciously funny way.

Set in the backdrop of Goa, it features an alcoholic husb a nd and also a great poet, who lives with his drug addict wife and one of their daughters.

It is divided into three parts – a prologue followed by three acts. The story is about a Violet, her husband Leon and their daughters Barbara, Ivy and Karen. Other characters include Violet’s sister Mattie and her husband and son, Barbara’s husband and daughter, Karen’s fiancé and Joanna, the caretaker hired by Leon few weeks before.

The play paints a realistic view of relationships, unlike how they are usually portr a­y ed – read idealistic and sm o o th. This is the story of a family whose members are all intelligent but sensitive creatures with the creepy ability of making each other absolutely miserable. When Leon goes missing, the family gathers to g ether, only to find out that he has committed suicide. The play takes us through the family’s pain, not just over the father’s death but of a very dysfunctional family.

Violet lets her husband commit suicide while she herself is ‘slightly’ brain damaged due to the pills she takes for ‘muscle relaxation’. Barbara and her husband Ash are goi ng to get divorced because of his infidelity, besides having a daughter Ginny, who smokes pot and is a rebel.

Ivy has fallen in love with her cousin who is actually Leon and Aunt Mattie’s son making them half-siblings. Karen turns a blind eye to her fiancé Steve’s advances tow a rds Ginny and goes on about their marriage.

Mattie keeps jeering her son junior Danny while her husband Charles also plans to leave her if she carries on such behaviour with Junior. Everything in the family is falling apart while they live on delicious food prepared by Joanna, whom Violet hates. In the end, everyone leaves Violet and she has to take refuge in Joanna’s lap.

Each character is peculiar, bound by pain and conflict. Lillete Dubey, Sandhya Mridul, Suchitra Pillai and Kitu Gidwani gave fabulous performances.

Lillete has been working with Indian playwrights but the script of this play was suggested to  her by daughter Neha and she found it fantastic. “A lot of people told me that I have not adapted this play to the Indian situation but if I have bought the rights of the play, I’m not going to tamper with it. The only change I made was by basing it in Goa. This was such a terrific script, so universal that I didn’t want to change anything about it,” she says. According to her, the elements of this play are taken from a soap opera but it made into a brilliant play.

For her, films and television do not allow such roles to co me up. “A lot of people ask me why aren’t you doing this in films? But it’s a male dominated industry. You can find Boman, Naseer and Paresh and all these people do character roles but you’ll hardly find th e ir female counterparts,” she feels. She has been in the industry for about 10 years but is basically a theatre actress.

“I don’t expect big roles to come to me. Anything that I find interesting I just do it. I enjoy films and once in a while, comes a nice character but they don’t challenge you or satisfy your soul.”

Osage County was first staged in October last and has since been staged across
various cities including Delhi, Mumbai, Jaipur, Chennai and Kolkata.

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