||The subject of angst due to family difficulties has been absolutely desiccated by countless writers over the years, which is what makes AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY such an astounding delight. The ground it covers is well-trodden, yet Tracy Letts's Pulitzer-Prize winning play manages to somehow hop, jump, and stomp across the terrain without ever touching a previous footprint. The problems of the Weston family are myriad, to say the least--booze, pills, pot, adultery, incest. They are a murder away from completing their commemorative set of deadly sins. At the play's outset, Beverly, the family patriarch, retreats mysteriously into the night, never to be heard from again, a surrender which makes perfect sense by the end of the play. His vanishing act forces the family daughters, Barbara, Ivy, and Karen, to return to their childhood home to comfort their mother, Violet, who rewards their devotion by launching into a vicious and relentless barrage of verbal and emotional abuse, from which none will be spared. Much hostility and hilarity ensues, as Violet conducts her symphony of dysfunction. This chillingly bitter old woman, who is addicted to pills and riddled with mouth cancer, is probably the meanest and most memorable character to stalk a Broadway stage in recent memory.