A: When she can act like Estelle Parsons. If you haven't seen Estelle Parsons in August: Osage County, you are cheating yourself out of the opportunity to see what makes theater the best forum for actors to truly unfold the wings of their craft and fly.
Parsons isn't acting the part of Violet Weston, she is Violet Weston, and seeing her make it look so easy and effortless is to watch someone defy gravity before your very eyes.
I recently revisited August to see how it was holding up in its new venue with its new cast members, particularly Parsons, and was thrilled to see that it has retained the same fire that it had over a year ago.
Any play that can run close to three hours long with two intermissions and fly by without making you think of the time deserves attention and now, with Parsons playing the venomous Violet, it demands that attention.
Vacillating between bitter sobriety and pill-induced benders, Parsons's Violet is a mesh of steel traps twisted around a sensitive core that no one, herself included, has the power to get to. Parsons's presence on the stage makes this clear from her first entrance. Even in a state of utter inebriation she stands strong and comfortable, self-certain that she is capable of weathering whatever misfortune comes her way, expecting it, welcoming it even with a temptation for what could be worse. She works her mouth and jaw continuously, making no effort to hide the effects of her poisonous pills. She flaunts her flaws proudly. Her entire being is one of defiance.
With an ensemble as strong as the cast currently playing in August it is no small task to stand out as the one performer the audience cannot take their eyes off of, but Parsons accomplishes this task without breaking a sweat. She is so captivating that even watching her sit and light and smoke a cigarette kept this writer staring.
In an era where theater seems saturated with film and television performances, it is a rare treat to see a seasoned stage actor remind us of the caliber of traffic that used to traverse our most holy stages. Such performances are far and very few between these days, and unless one is waiting for some of our fallen heroes to rise from the grave you should hurry to the Music Box Theatre and this one who walks among the living.