August: Osage County by Tracy Letts

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Summary

The play August: Osage County opens with a prologue in which Beverly Weston hires Johnna, a young Native American woman, as a housekeeper and caregiver to his drug-addicted wife, Violet. Act One begins a few days later as Violet’s sister, Mattie Fae and her husband, Charlie, talk with Ivy, Beverly and Violet’s middle daughter. Beverly has disappeared as has his fishing boat. Later, Violet berates Ivy for her lack of love. The Weston’s eldest daughter, Barbara, arrives with her husband, Bill, and their fourteen-year-old daughter, Jean. There is clearly a strain between them and the couple disagrees about Jean’s smoking. They greet the rest of the family, figure out sleeping arrangements, and meet Johnna.

In the next scene, Bill sorts through Beverly’s papers, while Barbara pumps Violet for reasons why Beverly might have disappeared. Violet chastises Barbara for abandoning them and blames her for Beverly’s disappearance. Upstairs, Jean meets Johnna, who is living in the attic. Jean smokes a bowl of marijuana and asks about Johnna’s heritage. Jean opens up about her parents marital difficulties: her father has been having an affair with one of his students.

In Scene Three, Barbara and Bill have a loud argument about their crumbling marriage, which Jean overhears. In the fourth scene, Sheriff Deon Gilbeau, a classmate of Barbara’s, arrives with the news that Beverly has drowned himself. As Barbara and Bill prepare to go identify the body, a heavily drugged Violet enters. She is virtually incoherent, and begins dancing to an Eric Clapton record. The first Act ends with her babbling “and then you’re here” over and over again.

Act Two finds the Weston household noticeably cleaner; it is the day of Beverly’s funeral and everyone is preparing for a family dinner. Violet stands alone in Beverly’s study and curses him for killing himself. In the dining room, Barbara and her newly-arrived sister Karen are setting the table. Karen rambles about her difficult history of relationships and her wonderful new fiancé, Steve, who’s come with her for support. Upstairs, Ivy admits to Violet and Mattie Fae that she has a boyfriend, but refuses to tell them anything about it. Downstairs, Bill tries to ascertain the specifics of Steve’s shady business dealings. When Bill and Barbara leave the room, Steve gets chummy with Jean and agrees to get her some more pot. Charlie arrives with his son, Little Charlie, who begs forgiveness for having overslept and missing the funeral. In the dining room, Bill and Barbara argue about their parenting of Jean and Bill’s infidelity. As the family trickles down to dinner, Ivy has a private meeting with Little Charles. They are secret lovers and plan to run away to New York City. When everyone sits down to dinner, Violet begins criticizing each member of the family, including Beverly. She tells her daughters that Beverly meant for her to have all of his money, but they could have whatever furniture or household items they want. In the midst of the fighting, Little Charles nearly reveals his affair with his cousin. Barbara eventually fights back and calls Violet out about her drug abuse. Barbara ends the dinner by having the family raid the house to rid it of Violet’s pills. When Violet resists, Barbara asserts that she is in charge.

Act Three finds the Weston house further transformed as all of the windows have been uncovered. The sisters are getting ready for bed and talking about Violet’s addiction to pills. Barbara is less optimistic because of Violet’s repeated attempts at rehabilitation. Barbara and Karen eventually get Ivy to admit the truth about her relationship with Little Charlie and their plan to run away. When the sisters express concern, Ivy points out that none of them are very close with one another. Violet arrives and speaks privately with Barbara about her vow to overcome her addiction. Downstairs, Mattie Fae and Charlie come across Little Charles and Ivy. Mattie Fae...

(The entire section is 1,101 words.)