30 November 2007

Dear Steppenwolf, Thank You.

Some time last year, a conversation very much like this took place:

Ed Sobel: Hey Tracy. How's that new play you're writing for us?
Tracy Letts: It's good, Ed. I'm thinking thirteen actors, three-and-a-half hours, and a three-story set. How does that sound?

And then Ed was like, "Yeah, totes, no problem."* And that is a beautiful thing. Another beautiful thing is the play, August: Osage County, that was the product of the bravery (and, granted, unique position) of Steppenwolf, and the brilliance that is Tracy Letts. This is not the punch-to-the-gut, staggering-out-of-the-theatre-nauseous horror show that you get from Bug or Killer Joe, but rather a three-plus hour play that is so sweeping and rich, so epic and tight all at once that I really need to see it again to get it into my bones. That's not to say it's too much or too muddy for one viewing, though - every moment and relationship is sharp and honest. And oh, the performances! Amy Morton, Deanna Dunagan, Meredith's Dad/Steppenwolf co-founder/adorable person Jeff Perry, Ian Barford, Rondi Reed, Frances Guinan - on and on. The whole thing was just staggering.

As we were walking to the subway, James (who stage managed the brilliant Killer Joe studio production that was both of our introductions to Tracy Letts) said, "Is it bad if Tracy Letts is my favorite playwright?" Before this play I would have said no. Before this play I was in love with the intense trauma and violence, the incredibly deep charcters and tight storytelling, the horrific theatricality. I always listed Letts in my easy-brain-access favorites list. And August: Osage County on its own would be easy entrée for a playwright into anyone's top-three.** But for all of it to come from the same writer, the exuberant bloodbaths and the epic family drama, the psychological terror and the steady emotional sadism, and all of it full of anguish and cruelty and so much love, so many people who want so much, so strongly (I'm actually tearing up here, thinking of last night, and the boy from Killer Joe, so distant stylistically but so full of the same need - Killer Joe goes where it goes because it has to, it's amazing), and all of it within these incredible specimens of playwriting, the airtight construction, the necessity of every word and every moment - James shouldn't even have to ask that question.

I want to see it again.

*Because that is how Ed Sobel talks. Like a fourteen-year-old livejournaler. Or like me.
**Kushner, Letts, Vogel? Is that incredibly bizarre?

1 comment:

anna said...

now i (at least!!) want to read the thing, but it doesn't look like the script has been published yet. any recommendations on how to get it, oh theatrely lit one?

i just put in an interlibrary request for killer joe.