Tracy Letts' Pulitzer- and Tony-winning "August: Osage County" has a huge cast and some unlikable characters. Winding Road Theater Ensemble previews it tonight and it opens Friday.


Brace yourself: The Weston family is coming to town.

The Westons are the very funny, very dysfunctional clan in Tracy Letts' "August: Osage County."

Winding Road Theater Ensemble previews its production of the Pulitzer- and Tony-winning play tonight, and opens it Friday.

Glen Coffman, one of the founders of Winding Road and the director of this production, gets that this is a chancy play to take on - it's long, has a huge cast, and there are some pretty unlikable folks in the Westons' extended family.

But it's worth the risk, he says.

"It's wildly entertaining," he says about the play, which he saw and fell in love with in New York.

"It's a throwback to the kinds of plays that American playwrights do particularly well, the family drama."

Instantly, visions of Eugene O'Neill ("Long's Day Journey Into Night") and Tennessee Williams ("Cat on a Hot Tin Roof") pop into the head. The two playwrights are brilliant in their family dramas. But, brother, can they be depressing.

You won't find that in "August," says Coffman. "Its a reimagining of the classic American family drama," he says. "It's not somber and turgid. It's hilariously funny, on top of being about a profoundly dysfunctional family."

The play opens with the family patriarch, Beverly Weston, a poet and college prof addicted to drink, interviewing a potential live-in cook. One of her key responsibilities will be Beverly's acid-tongued wife, Violet, who has mouth cancer and is very fond of pain pills.

That's the prologue. By Act 1, Beverly has disappeared and the family - children, grandchildren, spouses, intendeds - gathers in the sprawling three-story Oklahoma home to lend Violet support.

And the fun begins. There's Barbara, the eldest of the children and a supreme control freak; Ivy, quiet and having an affair with a man she thinks is her cousin, who has come with her; Karen, who brings along her too-slick boyfriend; Jean, the pot-smoking teen; Bill, a college teacher who has left his wife, Barbara, for one of his students.

And that's just a taste of the seriously whacked-out and funny characters in this play.

But laughs are not the only point of this piece.

"I think there are always big truths in family dramas," Coffman said.

"I think everyone, regardless of family dynamics, will find something in this play (that speaks to them). There's so much in it that rings true on a lot of different levels."

If you go

• What: Winding Road Theater Ensemble's production of "August: Osage County."

• By: Tracy Letts.

• Director: Glen Coffman.

• When: Previews at 7:30 p.m. today; opens 7:30 p.m. Friday. Regular performances are 7:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 10.

• Where: Beowulf Alley Theatre, 11 S. Sixth Ave.

• Tickets: Preview, $15; regular performances, $20, with discounts available.

• Reservations, information: 401-3626 or

• Cast: Maria Caprile, Tony Caprile, Michael Gifford, Alida Holguin Gunn, David Alexander Johnston, Avis Judd, Roger Owen, Peg Peterson, Toni Press-Coffman, Morgan Smith, Jared Stokes, Brian Wees and China Young.

• Running time: About 3 hours, with two intermissions.