After it opened on Broadway in 2007, “August: Osage County” scooped a Tony for best play and earned a Pulitzer Prize for U.S. playwright Tracy Letts.
Then in 2013’s film of the play, Meryl Streep and Julia Roberts were nominated for Academy Awards for their roles as the matriarch and eldest daughter, respectively, who spend most of their screen time savagely arguing with each other.
However, audiences in Japan can expect something different from acclaimed director Keralino Sandrovich in the play’s Japan premiere in Tokyo this month.
Set in rural Oklahoma, where Letts was born, the tale portrays a reunion meal at her home between a mother, her three grown daughters and other members of the family following the mysterious disappearance of her husband, the daughters’ father.
As most of those present have avoided each other for years, it’s not long before shouting, screaming and swearing engulf the meeting — with the hysterical and sarcastic monster of a mother brought to the fore as skeletons start to tumble out the family closet.
Sandrovich, however, is a master of nonsensical comedy, and for this production he has enlisted an A-list cast featuring former Takarazuka idols Rei Asami, as the mother, and Kei Otozuki as one of the three sisters alongside renowned theater actress Natsuko Akiyama and top screen star Takako Tokiwa — while the director’s longtime leading lady, Inuko Inuyama, plays the mother’s sister and Kunio Murai takes the role of the father.
Meanwhile, though “August: Osage County” was described by The New York Times in 2008 as “the most exciting new American play Broadway has seen for years,” Sandrovich said in a recent interview that his aim was to create an original black comedy rather than reflect the bizarre women’s battle zone of the Hollywood production.
“The film focused on the mother and eldest daughter’s discord, but when I read the original I thought it would be great if it was staged as a very lively family drama,” he said. “So, with my dry style of sardonic humor, it will be different from either the Broadway or the Hollywood versions.”
Sandrovich is also on record as saying that he believes there are only a few directors in Japan who could stage this dark work as a great comedy — “though the actors must bring just the right kind of light touch to their acting.”
Whether it turns out to be funny in a humorous or peculiar way, it will be intriguing to see just how Sandrovich presents this deeply Midwestern drama in the pop-culture mecca of Tokyo’s Shibuya Ward.
“August: Osage County” runs until May 29 at Theatre Cocoon in Shibuya-ku, Tokyo, and from June 2 to 5 at Morinomiya Piloti Hall in Osaka. For details, call 03-3477-3244 or visit www.bunkamura.co.jp/cocoon or www.piloti-hall.jp.
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