August Osage County – Schenectady Civic Players – Review

Written by on March 17, 2024

Schenectady Civic Players’ August: Osage County Delivers a Strong Dramatic Look at the Cruelty of the American Family- by Joanna Palladino.

Families can be the most positive influences in a person’s life and they can also be the source of trauma, cruelty, violence, ridicule, and destruction.  Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer prize-winning play August: Osage County is a “southern gothic”-style play set in Pawhuska, Oklahoma in 2007.  In the end, the play transcends time and place and has the audience asking the question, “How do the dynamics of family mold and shape us as individuals?”

Schenectady Civic Players’ (SCP) delivers a stellar production of August: Osage County.  The play is jam-packed with tons of drama and excess including drinking, pill-popping, cigarette smoking, weed-smoking, cursing, infidelity, lechery, suicide, and an actual physical skirmish or two.  The play begins with a relatively calm scene where Beverly Weston, is hiring a local Cheyenne woman, Johnna, to be a live-in housekeeper for his prescription pill addict wife, Violet.   Violet, who ironically or has mouth cancer, is a vicious tongued mother and yet her entire family comes to support her when her husband Beverly disappears.  Mattie Fae, Violet’s sister, arrives with her husband Charlie and son Little Charles makes a late appearance as well.  Living in Colorado, Barbara, the eldest daughter, brings her soon to be estranged husband Bill and their 14-year old pot smoking daughter Jean, to shield her from the scorn of her mother.

Karen, the youngest sister living in Florida, arrives with her new lecherous fiancé’ Steve.  Completing the family is Ivy, the middle daughter who lives near her parents and is forced to put up with Violet’s constant criticism. Although it appears that Violet is strung out and completely unaware of her drug induced antics, by the end of the play, Violet reveals all the family’s truths, including details of her husband’s past infidelity and details of his disappearance that the local Sheriff also shares with the audience.

The large ensemble cast of August: Osage County delivers exceptional performances.

Carol Charniga is an absolute treasure and portrays the matriarch Violet Weston with depth, authenticity, empathy, and perfect comedic timing. She is truly exceptional to watch.  Jay Hunter portrays Beverly Weston as a deeply thoughtful academic and delivers much of the family’s background with matter of fact-ness that feels tinged with a bit of actor Hal Holbrook and historian Shelby Foote.  Melissa Lacijan anchors the family with her strong portrayal of eldest daughter Barbara Fordham.  Shawn Olander-Hahn brings humanity and likeability to his portrayal of Bill Fordham and Ashley Schuliger is so believable as Jean Fordham she evokes feelings of paternal worry from members of the audience. Amanda Dorman delivers a layered and heartbreaking portrayal of Ivy Weston. Brigitta Rose conveys a hilarious and yet pathetic Karen Weston.  Tony Pallone’s Steve Heidebrecht is so shady and lecherous you actually get the heebie jeebies every time Pallone is on stage.  Linda Thorburn delivers a well-rounded performance of Mattie Fae Aiken; her Mattie is funny, cruel, and also wounded.   Steve Leifer’s Charlie Aiken is affable and his character’s ability to hold his wife accountable for her cruelty is a highlight of the play.  Adam Barnes is so sweet and likeable as Little Charles.  Abbi Roy’s Johnna Monevata is quiet and watchful and yet strong when the moment calls for it.  John Sutliff rounds out the cast with the superb delivery of an iconic small town Sheriff as Sheriff Deon Gilbeau.

Director Michael McDermott and Assistant Director Kathryn Capalbo did an excellent job balancing the needs of the script, the performances of the actors and the production aspects of the show.  Set designer Jennie Sinnott and the set construction team (Megan Anderson, Pete Annely, Jillian and Jeff Becker, Adam Coons, Gary Hoffmann, Josh Horowitz, Melissa Lacijan, Michael McDermott, Michael Mensching, Callie Peek, Doug Peek, Amanda Serafini, Jennie Sinnot, Brian Starnes, John Sutliff, and Jennifer Van Iderstyne) created a stunning set complete with an open three-story house that allows the audience to see all of the actors as they move from floor to floor.

The crew should also be acknowledged for their great contributions:

Stage Manager Andrea Burger, Assistant Stage Manager Jamie Flax-Leight,  Lighting Designers Jared Ovitt, Board Operator Josh Horowitz, Fight Choreographer Molly Waters, Intimacy Choreographer Amelia Pena, Wig Designer John Fowler, and the entire properties and set dressing team (too numerous to mention individually).

Brian Starnes was the sound designer and in consult with the director and cast crafted an awesome soundtrack for the play.  Starnes relied heavily on the musical works of musicians native to Oklahoma for the preshow music.  He incorporated a large selection of music and highlights include:

  • Hot Rod Lincoln – Johnny Bond
  • Hard Headed Woman – Wanda Jackson
  • Ride the River – J.J. Cale (with Eric Clapton)
  • Oklahoma Swing – Vince Gill & Reba McEntire
  • Yoshimi Battles the Pink Robots, Pt. 1 – The Flaming Lips
  • Classical Gas – Mason Williams
  • Do Re Mi – Woody Guthrie
  • The Heart of the Matter – Megan Hilty
  • Riders In The Sky – Roy Clark
  • Groovy Grubworm – Harlow Wilcox & The Oakies
  • Home Sweet Oklahoma – Leon Russell

The transition and intermission music was also thoughtfully selected and included such pieces as:

  • Walk on the Ocean (Instrumental) – Toad the Wet Sprocket
  • I Got the Same Old Blues – J.J. Cale
  • Summertime – Billy Strings
  • I Put a Spell on You – Jeff Beck (with Joss Stone)
  • Volunteered Slavery – The Derek Trucks Band
  • Symphony No. 25 in G Minor, K. 183, 1st Movement – WA Mozart – Sir Neville Marriner & Academy of St Martin in the Fields
  • Gimme Shelter – The Rolling Stones
  • Baby Did a Bad Bad Thing – Chris Isaak
  • Caught Out In The Rain (Live) – Beth Hart
  • Down In The Flood – The Derek Trucks Band
  • This Sky – The Derek Trucks Band
  • Mother’s Little Helper – The Rolling Stones
  • Gone Gone Gone (Done Moved On) – Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
  • Fat Man in the Bathtub (Live) – Little Feat
  • Okie From Muskogee – Merle Haggard
  • Surrender – Cheap Trick
  • Dust in a Baggie – Billy Strings
  • Blue on Black – Kenny Wayne Shepherd
  • Delicado – Percy Faith & His Orchestra

During the play itself, Eric Clapton’s Lay Down Sally was played multiple times by Violet because she liked “the beat.”  I think it was more than the beat that compelled Violet to play the song multiple times during the play.  The lyrics of Lay Down Sally speak so much to Violet’s ultimate desires and shortcomings and foreshadows the end of the play perfectly:

I long to see the morning light
Color in your face so dreamily
So don’t you go and say goodbye
You can lay your worries down and stay with me
Don’t you ever leave

Lay down, Sally, and rest here in my arms
Don’t you think you want someone to talk to?
Lay down, Sally, there’s no need to leave so soon
I’ve been trying all night long just to talk to you

August: Osage County at SCP is a vibrant night of theater!  Although the play is 2 hours and 50 minutes, it is worth every second of your time. 

Performance dates are Friday–Sunday (March 15-17) and Wednesday–Sunday (March 20-24). Friday and Saturday curtains are at 8 pm, Wednesday and Thursday curtains are at 7:30 pm, and Sundays are matinees only at 2:30 pm. All tickets are $25. Tickets are available online through the SCP website, by phone, or at the door for any performance. Call 518-382-2081 or visit for more information.


AOC_photo-1 – Carol Charniga

AOC_photo-2 – (L-R) Amanda Dorman, Melissa Lacijan, Carol Charniga, Shawn Olander-Hahn

AOC_photo-3 – (L-R) Melissa Lacijan, Carol Charniga

AOC_photo-4 – (L-R) Shawn Olander-Hahn, Melissa Lacijan, John Sutliff

AOC_photo-5 – (L-R) Melissa Lacijan, Carol Charniga, Amanda Dorman



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