Directors Keith Digby and Cynthia Pronick will take Langham Court Theatre audiences to a hot August in Oklahoma this month.
From April 23 to May 9, they present August: Osage County, a tragicomedy written by Tracy Letts.
The couple is no stranger to Langham audiences, this being the eighth play they’ve directed for the company.
“We started a long time ago,” says Digby, former artistic director of Victoria’s Bastion Theatre, and a screenwriter with a background in professional theatre. “Last year we took on Rozencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead and this year we’re taking on another hugely monstrous play.”August: Osage County includes a cast of 13. “It’s on the large side,” says Digby. “Langham Court Theatre tends to cast between four and five and upwards. Being community theatre they’re very concerned with giving lots of people the opportunity to tread the boards, so they tend not to do tiny – although 13 is getting up near Shakespeare territory.”
The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award-winning play exposes a large family in a spectacularly entertaining meltdown. A missing father, a pill-popping matriarch, three squabbling sisters and relentless revelations of indiscretion launch the audience into a riveting theatre experience.
“The play was written in 2007 and first produced in Chicago,” says Pronick, who’s been in theatre “since God was a boy.”
“It’s autobiographical in a way. The matriarch and patriarch of the Weston family represent Letts’ grandfather and grandmother.”
The play deals with a severely dysfunctional family during a stressful time, but also includes some laughter.
“The movie, you have to deal with as a separate art object,” says Digby. “People who have seen it as an enjoyable drama will be delighted to find out in the play, there’s humour – it’s our job to play both masks of comedy and tragedy and find a variety of tones in the subject matter.”
Pronick says they have a “blessed” cast. “It’s one of those shows. The scary thing is 80 per cent of the job is casting and you have to get it right. … Fortunately we have a tremendous cast.”
The cast includes returning Langham Theatre members Nick Stull and Susie Mullen as Beverly and Violet Weston and newcomers, including UVic theatre student Keisha Palm as housekeeper Johnna Monevata. “She’s a housekeeper hired by Beverly before he disappears, because they’ve let the house and their eating, taking care of themselves, slide away. It’s an interesting role, she’s the silent witness to the mayhem,” says Pronick.
The large cast began rehearsals in February with table reads and character study.
“What people will see on stage eventually, is people in a family, not characters in a play,” Digby adds.
It is the couple’s challenge to achieve that. “We’re fortunate there are a lot of really talented people who choose to have a life, so they live in Victoria,” he says.
August: Osage County
April 23 to May 9,