August: Schulenburg Osage County

Man, I’ve been wanting to make that joke since I saw the show almost two weeks ago, but I haven’t had a chance to sit down and write my thoughts.

I will not write an extended critique of the production, which has already received more than enough coverage from writers far better, and more qualified, than I. But I can’t help reviewing it just a little:

Suffice it to say that the show is long but excellent, with no weak link in the large ensemble cast. The unfolded doll-house set alone is worth the (high) price of admission, as is Deanna Dunagan’s memorable performance as the matriarch of the family slowly self-destructing over the course of the show. The entire second act takes place around a table, but your eyes never wander from the goings-on, and the credit for that rightly goes to both director Anna D. Shapiro and writer Tracy Letts, who has somehow found something new and brilliant to say about the dysfunctional American family. Only the sound design, which at one point unnecessarily intrudes with a loud gong sound, is not up to the superb standard set by the rest of the production, but thankfully the moment is gone quickly and we get back to the amazing work on display at the Imperial Theatre.

So that’s out of the way. What I really wanted to write about, as a member of Flux, is Steppenwolf, the 30-plus-year old company to thank for creating, producing, directing, and performing this great new work (all but two of the actors in the Broadway version premiered the play in Chicago last summer). Here’s the blurb they put in the playbill:

Steppenwolf Theatre Company is committed to the principle of ensemble performance through the collaboration of a company of actors, directors and playwrights. Our mission is to advance the vitality and diversity of American theatre by nurturing artists, encouraging repeatable creative relationships and contributing new works to the national canon. Steppenwolf has grown into an internationally renowned company of 41 ensemble members whose talents include acting, directing, playwriting, film-making and textual adaptation.

Nurturing artists. Repeatable creative relationships. A company of actors, directors, and playwrights committed to ensemble performance. As I read this I couldn’t help but think: wouldn’t it be great to be making theater like this in thirty years?

And then I thought: isn’t it great to making theater like this right now?

Yes, it is. Stick around, folks. Flux ’08 is gonna rock your socks.

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