The Washington Post: August: Osage County

The folks at 1-800-FLOWERS must be grateful there aren’t more Violet Westons. Violet is the flakily savage matriarch at the heart of “August: Osage County,” Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play. A prescription-drug addict who seems to take pleasure in emotionally brutalizing her daughters — in part because it proves her own strength — she is rude and cruelly manipulative, and she likes to keep her house at the temperature of the Sahara. If more moms were like her, Mother’s Day would be a financial flop.

Witness the Violet who is splendidly rampaging through the Keegan Theatre’s “August: Osage County,” courtesy of actress Rena Cherry Brown: Tottering around her Oklahoma house in a red nightgown like a deranged sprite; viciously lashing out at her relatives during a meal; triumphantly flourishing her pill vial — Brown’s Violet is a survivor who has raised kooky brutality to a high art.

…Director Mark A. Rhea has calibrated the pace and rhythms of the piece judiciously — no small matter with a domestic epic that clocks in at 31 / 2 hours. (Christina A. Coakley is assistant director.)

Looking aptly wan, Belen Pifel radiates the right stubborn awkwardness as Barbara’s sister Ivy. Karen Novack is reasonably convincing as the third sister, Karen, who is determined to be well adjusted, even if the price is self-delusion.

Set designer Stefan Gibson and properties designer Katrina Wiskup have created an atmospheric two-story homestead whose dingy furniture, cluttered shelves and dirty, yellow-toned walls seem to testify to years of neglect. It’s a space that Brown’s Violet seems born to haunt…