‘August: Osage County’ is next on the Harvester stage

Sep 12, 2019

This weekend, the Batavia Players promise a look at once-famous poet Beverly Weston and his quirky, demanding and damaged family — or dysfunctional family, as some cast members have called it.

The entertainment at Harvester 56 Theater at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. Sunday is “August: Osage County,” a play set in Oklahoma. According to the Players’ website, the story and the cast “bring to life some of what many of us go through with our relatives and how we relate to family issues, past and present.”

Tickets are $13 for adults and $11 for students and seniors. They are available online at www.dailynewstickets.com.

“I wanted to direct this because of the incredible story line, the depth of the characters and the challenge of fitting an eight-room house in this space,” said Director Anthony Baldwin-Giambrone. “It is the story of a family with many secrets coming together all under the roof of their family home when a family member goes missing. All the secrets start being revealed. The audience will love the plot line and the depth of the characters.”

Michele Stamp plays Violet Weston, Beverly’s wife. The Westons have three daughters, Barbara, Ivy and Karen. Among the other characters are Mattie Fay, Violet’s sister; Bill, Barbara’s husband; Jean, Barbara and Bill’s daughter; Charlie Aiken, Mattie Fay’s husband; and Steve, Karen’s fiance.

“Beverly’s an alcoholic. I’m a drug addict,” Stamp said of her character. “Since the other two girls have moved away, the responsibility of making sure the mom and dad stay safe has fallen on Ivy for years.”

Stamp said she’s never acted in “August: Osage County” before, but added, “It was not unknown to me. I had read the play and seen the movie, but the play, I think, is better, of course.

“I still find it very exciting to play this role,” she said.“Anthony actually picked me out for this role.”

Cynthia Nelson, who plays Ivy Weston, said Ivy has had enough of staying home and is at the end of her rope with the family.

“She’s a pretty mild person. She’s probably the most normal, but, like everyone, she has her secrets,” Nelson said.

“To be honest, before being cast in this show, I had never read it. I knew they made a movie of it, but I’ve never seen the movie, so it’s all brand-new for me,” she said. “That’s really exciting sometimes, coming into something like this and not knowing anything about it and finding out how great it is.”

Nelson said she was originally cast as Johnna, the caretaker, but the person playing Ivy dropped out of the cast. She said she loves playing the daughter of Stamp’s character.

“We’ve been in shows before and it’s just nice to be on stage with her again,” Nelson said.

The two cast members said the family is extremely dysfunctional.

“There are funny moments in it,” Stamp said. “I think, hopefully, most people will walk out of her saying, ‘Oh, my family is so much better than this. “

Dorothy Gerhart plays Violet’s sister, Mattie Fay.

Describing Mattie and her family, Gerhart said, “Her husband is kind of henpecked. Her son is henpecked. She (Mattie) cuts people down all the time, which a lot of the family does. She has a secret she feels guilty about, and that’s why she’s taking it out on everybody else.”

Gerhart is another cast member who never heard of the play before she auditioned.

“Anthony just kind of preselected people. He contacted me and asked me if I would be interested in it. I read the play and I said, ‘Yeah.’ It looked like a challenge ...”

Baldwin-Giambrone said the cast includes Wendy Williams as Barbara Fordam, Steve Coburn as Bill Fordam, Kathy Johns as Karen Weston.

“The other seven actors are all equally important to the story because they flesh out the story line,” he said.

People gathered at a table
Left to right; Dorothy Gerhart, Colan Fleming-Stumpf, Derrick Crawford, Michele Stamp, Tiffany Keicher, Kevin Partridge, Kathy Johns and Cynthia Nelson at the dinner table in “August: Osage County.” ©Mark Gutman

By Brian Quinn, Batavia Daily News