Tuesday, May 19, 2009

9. Amazing Grace

I got a postcard in the mail this evening announcing that Phylicia Rashad is taking over the central role in August: Osage County on Broadway. I saw the show last September with Zelda and it's a powerful, deep role and it's not something I would have thought of for Rashad but I bet she can bust it wide open. She's fortunate to get to play in that sandbox, too. God, what a great play! ("Eat your fish, bitch!")

I'm curious about how Rashad's presence will change the play. Of course every new actor to come into a play changes the way the machine works. They see different things in the writing and are drawn to different touchstones in the role and whatever they do will come out of their body differently than out of anyone else's. This, though, is more than that. August is a play about an old style upper middle class family in modern day Oklahoma. A white family, is what I'm saying, in a culture where racial distinctions are pretty clearly drawn. The writing touches lightly on the parallel between race and class distinction as it relates to Native Americans. There are no African American characters.

Now there's an African American actor in the lead role. I'm not saying that I think there's anything wrong with that. What I'm wondering is in what ways that will change the way audiences interpret the play. How will it change the race and class division message? How will it change the perception of the character? I'd like to see it again with Rashad as the lynchpin but I don't think I'm qualified to judge the differences since I've seen it before. I've already made judgements about the character and her motivations and back story. I could go analytical about the changes but I don't know if I'd be able to lose myself in the show enough to see it freshly. People seeing it for the first time, though, would be able to just see this woman as head of the family and doing...all those things I don't want to spoil for you.

Anybody out there planning to see August on Broadway soon? Let me know what you think. It's a glorious show, I think you'll like it.


  1. I'm quite frankly, amazed...don't even know what to say about this. Sure, she's good. great. awesome. but...for Osage County the play I don't think it'll fly. It sure as hell wouldn't in Osage County the place.