‘August: Osage County’: The Story of a Family at War

August: Osage County is an award-winning Tracy Letts play which revolves around the relationships in a dysfunctional family. Led by the ill-humored Oklahoma matriarch Violet, diverged lives come together when a family crisis brings them back under one roof.

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Baby Barredo is Violet Weston.

More photos from the August: Osage County press preview HERE.

“When this piece came up, I jumped up in my seat and when I read the script, I said this is Pinoy melodrama, you’re just talking in English,” shared by theater veteran and CCP Vice President director Chris Millado. It is a typical familial soap opera, rambling and complex: a dying matriarch, a missing alcoholic father, illicit affairs, divorce, deceptions inside the clan, their offsprings and tag-alongs. This drama is relatable to anyone who’s suffered through an extreme dysfunctional family and effectively draining where there’s always an argument and everyone’s yelling at each other about everything. Everyone has their own terrible grievances.

Star-studded Cast of Characters

The stellar cast includes Baby Barredo as Violet Weston, the central character of the play that tracks her life across the month of August while she lives in Oklahoma; Pinky Amador as Barbara Fordham, the eldest daughter; Tami Monsod as Ivy Weston, the middle daughter; Liesl Batucan as Karen Weston, the youngest daughter; Leo Rialp as Beverly Weston, husband of Violet and father to his three 40-something daughters.

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Tami Monsod and Noel Rayos

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Leo Rialp

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Richard Cunanan, Tami Monsod, Sheila Francisco and Baby Barredo

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Cigar! (Violet Weston & Sheriff Deon Gilbeau scene)

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Kenneth Moraleda & Pinky Amador

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Violet Weston: “I have an Indian in my house.”

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Sweethearts Karen Weston and Steve Heidebrecht with Jean Fordham

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Sheila Francisco as Mattie Fae Aiken

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Violet Weston: “Where’s the meat? Where’s the meat? Where’s the meat? Meat, meat, where is the meat?”

The rest of the cast includes Kenneth Moraleda as Bill Fordham; Sheila Francisco as Mattie Fae Aiken; Thea Gloria as Jean Fordham; Richard Cunanan as Charlie Aiken; Hans Eckstein as Steve Heidebrecht; Noel Rayos as Little Charles; Angeli Bayani as Johnna Monevata with Naths Everett as her understudy; and Arnel Carrion as Sheriff Deon Gilbeau.

The actors were handpicked from the ensemble of Repertory Phils. “What this group of actors has achieved in three weeks is quite amazing. This is a tribute to the kind of training and experience that we’ve had working together for so many years,” adds the director as he tells the story of why he accepts this project and on how honored he is in directing his first production with Repertory Phils.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve been back onstage. I’ve been dying to get back onstage to do a straight play and to be part of this play and this company on this stage. Oh My God! It’s really a dream come true, I’m not exaggerating!” elated Angeli Bayani who plays Johnna Monevata. She is thankful for everybody being generous and supportive of her.

 Everyone Gets a Big Moment

The inherent theatricality of Violet’s character is momentous onstage. Baby Barredo who played the big role is one of the greatest Filipino theater actresses alive. She is also the co-founder and the Artistic Director of Repertory Philippines. Baby Barredo generously shared her unbounded talents and high spirit, even exhausted after the show. She’s after shaping and honing other talents of future generations of actors and actresses.

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She has an outstanding impact and authority which appears in every scene, holding a cigarette in her thin fingers and blurring her words, sucked up by cancer and addiction.

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Where did she get her energy? She delightfully said, “From up there! I pray every time onstage. Lord I’m not anymore young, I don’t have any more the energy. Imagine I’m 20 years older than all of them. That’s why Lord, you got to be there, give energy not only for myself but for the whole cast. Actually, this is really ensemble acting. You know like those scenes where you have all those people up stage, simultaneous action talking at the same time, that’s very difficult to do because you have to concentrate on your part. When you’re already in your 70s, medyo mahirap na yun.”

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Pinky Amador as Barbara ends up being uncompromising and revealing in the role that calls for an ultimate outburst. From Piaf to Osage County, she is expressive, eloquent and passionate just like her siblings on the stage. Their sibling rapport and the post-funeral lunch scene interestingly leave us impressed.

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Siblings Barbara Fordham, Karen Weston and Ivy Weston

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The post-funeral lunch scene

The Epic Three-Hour Play

With an exceptional more than three hours of running time, “The play is written very episodic with a lot of vignettes. When you’re actually in the scene and when you draw the audience with the scene, you actually don’t realize how long it feels. But normally, you’re not supposed to realize how long the play is, because it is each and every character fleshing out their lives, problems and conflicts, you have that many vignettes and well-developed characters and they come into conflict with each other so well. For one it’s an ensemble piece, every character has been given the chance to shine & progress, rise & fall and make-up,” states Pinky Amador as she explains the grounds of why this remarkable piece of theater is long. “It’s long but if you’re in the scene, you don’t notice it at all.”

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Karen Weston: “It’s not cut and dried, it lives where everything lives: somewhere in the middle.”

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The Ethical Motive

“I learned that there’s a bit of all this dysfunctional stuff in all of us. It discovers and rediscovers that there’s a bit of that in every family and you carry on. Family is important at the end of the day. We may hurt each other, we may mess-up but family is still there. It’s the most important thing. Even if you walked out honey, you still come back.” ~ Shiela Francisco (Mattie Fae Aiken)

“For me, there’s a beautiful line my character says. ‘I am a human being after all.’ Similar to what she said, you get in touch with all the aspects that make you human. The brokenness, times when you have to embrace the flaws and embrace everything that makes you a human being. Trying to exist in a world and make it a beautiful place despite the brokenness.” ~Liesl Batucan (Karen Weston)

All of us, let’s not cut and dry. The beauty of brokenness is what we want to portray here, we hope we shared that to you tonight.” ~Noel Rayos (“Little” Charles Aiken)

“Don’t have an affair with your brother. Go for the sheriff.” ~Arnell Carrion (Sheriff Deon Gilbeau)

The Difference of Live Theater and Film

In totality, this is a very memorable experience watching the whole amazing cast in a well-directed performance. Along with my difficulties and putting all these in words, I get to learn new things. It’s what makes me grateful about. We’re thankful to Sir Toots Tolentino and for people who continue to believe in what we do. Its live music and now live theater. It defines a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience. This is what we capture onstage. And there are many reasons why you have to experience it live!

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Violet Weston: “I’m a drug addict. I love drug.”

The experience in theater is its liveness, there’s nothing that would replace the kind of relationship to the audience whether it’s Meryl Streep doing it or Baby Barredo doing the role. What makes this moment very special is that when you watch Meryl Streep on celluloid, she’ll be doing the exact same thing every night. If you come back here and watch the show for a few times, you’ll have the near closest thing to a slice of life because all the actors are playing it at the moment as they live it,” ends Chris Millado.

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Check out the last few shows:

14 Mar 2014 – 8pm
15 Mar 2014 – 3:30pm / 8pm
16 Mar 2014 – 3:30pm

Tickets are available through Ticketworld at 891-9999, or via http://www.ticketworld.com.ph/. For other inquiries you may call Repertory Philippines at (+632) 843-3570, (+632) 555-0082, or e-mail them shows@repertoryphilippines.com, or visit their website at http://www.repertoryphilippines.com.

Enjoys capturing, editing, and sharing content across social media platforms alongside music photography. The birth of this blog is a testament of my credence on the power of images in conveying stories.

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