Big Pulitzer-Winner “August: Osage County” Lights Up Ordway

To those who have already seen “August: Osage County,” winner of a Pulitzer and multiple Tony Awards in 2008: lucky you. To everyone else, lucky you, too. Because when the grand drama about a large Oklahoma clan falling apart (and the unspoken truths that held it together) finally arrives in Minnesota on March 16 at the Ordway Center for the Performing Arts, it will feature not only stars (Broadway’s Estelle Parsons) but also some of the best local actors, including Guthrie Theater regular Barbara Kingsley and Park Square Theater regular Stephen D’Ambrose (who, in fact, are married to each other).

The play itself comes with a lot to recommend to anyone who wouldn’t otherwise jump to see the latest Broadway hit. Partly, it’s the Pulitzer—the intellectual’s Tony. Mostly, it’s the playwright, Tracy Letts, who has rarely been interested in spectacle so much as grand internal drama, the bites beneath the surface, even when it makes the audience squirm, as in “Bug,” her play produced recently at Pillsbury House Theatre in Minneapolis.

“August” extends the recent winning streak of Chicago’s renowned Steppenwolf Theatre, where it premiered; by the same token, the Steppenwolf lends “August” a kind of credibility on Broadway that, say, the new “Hamlet” starring Jude Law (famous play, famous movie star = $) simply can’t buy. Put “August” in the class of “Doubt,” “Proof,” and other recent non-musical Broadway hits that have found large audiences not via crowd-pleasing spectacle but via universal themes, cleverly enacted.