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by Trish Morgan

Cumberland Theatre Continues its 34th Main Stage season with the award-winning dark comedy “August: Osage County”, which will continue this weekend for the final four performances - Thurs-Sat, 8 pm and final curtain on Sunday at 2 pm.


Written by Tracy Letts, the play won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for drama and has been produced in regional theaters all over the world since its premiere at the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.


The play centers around the Weston family, brought together after their patriarch, world-class poet and alcoholic Beverly Weston, disappears. The matriarch, violent, depressed and addicted to pain pills and truth-telling, is joined by her three daughters and their problematic lovers, who harbor their own deep secrets. There is also the sister Mattie Fae and her family, well-trained in the Weston family art of cruelty, and finally, the observer of the chaos, the young Cheyenne housekeeper Johnna, who was hired by Beverly just before his disappearance. Holed-up in the large family estate in Osage County, Oklahoma, tensions heat up and boil over in the ruthless August heat. With rich insight and brilliant humor, Letts paints a vivid portrait of a Midwestern family at a turning point.


“August: Osage County” debuted on Broadway in 2007 and played an open run at the music box theater. It went on to win both the Drama Desk award and the Tony award for outstanding play. In 2013, a film version was released featuring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberbatch.


Cumberland Theatre features a vanished father, a pill-popping mother, and three sisters who harbor shady little secrets. When the large Weston family unexpectedly reunited after dad disappeared, their Oklahoman family homestead explodes in a maelstrom of truths and uncertain secrets. Mix in violence, the drugged-up, scathingly acidic matriarch, and you’ve got a major play that unflinchingly and uproariously exposes the dark side of the Midwestern American family.


This production is being directed by the fabulous Nicole Mattis, who is the chair of the theatre and dance program at Frostburg State University. She performed such magic with this cast! Nicole had a terrific handle on each character’s persona, and the actors under her direction measured up to Nicole’s high standards. What a coup having Nicole in the director’s chair for this deep, dark look into this family’s core.


Here is the summation of one of the best casts I have ever seen on the stage. Julie Herber, who played Violet, was a powerhouse of an actor. So expressive, so “Meryl Streep”, so deep into her cigarette-smoking, pill-popping, painfully-honest character that every single person in the audience was blown away. Julie - you are a star, and you were surrounded by the incredible talents of Valentine, Rowley, Wicker, Baughman and Halmos - stage veterans who have such stage presence and talent for grasping a character and going full-out. Julie - they all helped brighten your star on stage.


I’ve seen almost all of the actors who are in this play on stage before. With this show, Mattis has somehow drawn out the most intimate, deep rooted truths and secrets from each of these actors so that their very souls were exposed and raw.



Tom Valentine spent several weeks, as each actor did, studying character and in his case, growing raggedy facial hair to bring Beverly Watson to life. This is one of the greatest ensemble performances I have ever seen. It turns funny, heartwarming and sad, and it is a stellar display of top-notch acting.


As it turns out, Valentine’s role was short-lived in the beginning of the play, and it turns out he’s the lucky one. After a few days of infighting and bloody backstabbing, it’s easy to see why anyone trapped in this domestic hell-hole would rather drown themselves than sit down to a family dinner. All of the roles in this play call for leaving nothing at the table. There’s little relief. This makes for a powerful production that leaves you aghast, mouth hanging open at the ferocity with which families can hurt one another. It also leaves you so fatigued and spent, it’s hard to understand why one should continue to watch it all any longer.


When you watch this play, you’re peering in on moments that are so intimate and painful that we really shouldn’t see them. The truth is, the characters don’t want to be part of it either. Everyone here in this play has pain, and while we join these characters for a short time, it’s easy to see that the cycles of lies, distrust, and abuse go back for generations – clinging to this family like the hot summer dust of the empty plains that surround them.


This review would not be complete without mentioning the extraordinary talents of set designer Rhett Wolford, who has out-done himself once again. How he comes up with the design ideas in such a small amount of time and brings the set to life for each production is absolutely amazing. The family fight scenes are worth an outstanding mention, as well, and Darrel Rushton, Brian Records and Seth Thompson made everything look so real, and it’s hard to believe it was all choreographed.


The cast consists of Tom Valentine, Beverly Weston; Alexis Geyer, Johnna; Julie Herbert, Violet Weston; Nicole Halmos, Mattie Fae; Jim Wicker, Charlie; Samantha Kennedy, Ivy Weston; Kimberli Rowley, Barbara Fordham; Matt Baughman, Bill Fordham; Cailin Peluso, Jean Fordham; Seth Thompson, Sheriff Gilbeau; Shea-Mikal Green, Karen Weston; Bill Dennison, Little Charles; Mike Virts, Steve Heidebrecht.


Production staff working with Director Mattis is as follows: Hayden Kline, stage manager; Elizabeth Mudge, assistant stage manager and wardrobe assistant; Rhett Wolford, set design; Jennifer Clark, costume design; Megan O’Brien, lighting design; Eric Ringler, props master; Trevor McCabe, lighting tech; Darrel Rushton, fight director; Brian Records, assistant fight director; Seth Thompson, fight captain.


There will be two 10-minute intermissions at each performance, as the play runs a little longer than most productions. Because the drama and the comedy are so moving and these actors bring us right on stage with us into their dysfunction, you won’t notice that you sat a little longer than other plays you may have attended here.


Please note the show contains violence, adult situations and strong language, and may not be suitable for all audiences. Parental discretion is encouraged.


For ticket information and reservations, call 301-759-4990 or visit Cumberland Theatre on Facebook.

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE - The Cumberland Theatre continues their 34th Main Stage Season with the award-winning dark comedy August: Osage County, which will run August 25th – September 4th.


Written by Tracy Letts, the play won the 2008 Pulitzer Prize for drama and has been produced in regional theatres all over the world since its premiere at the Steppenwolf Theatre in Chicago.


The play centers around the Weston family, brought together after their patriarch, world-class poet and alcoholic Beverly Weston, disappears. The matriarch, Violet, depressed and addicted to pain pills and “truth-telling,” is joined by her three daughters and their problematic lovers, who harbor their own deep secrets, her sister Mattie Fae and her family, well-trained in the Weston family art of cruelty, and finally, the observer of the chaos, the young Cheyenne housekeeper Johnna, who was hired by Beverly just before his disappearance. Holed up in the large family estate in Osage County, Oklahoma, tensions heat up and boil over in the ruthless August heat. With rich insight and brilliant humor, Letts paints a vivid portrait of a Midwestern family at a turning point.


August: Osage County debuted on Broadway in 2007 and played an open run at the Music Box Theatre. It went on to win both the Drama Desk Award and the Tony Award for Outstanding Play. In 2013, a film version was released featuring Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Chris Cooper and Benedict Cumberpatch.


The Cumberland Theatre cast features both local and visiting actors. Playing the role of Violet will be Julie Herber of Frederick, MD. Herber is the Associate Director of the Maryland Ensemble Theatre and was last seen at CT as Dottie in Noises Off. Playing the Weston daughters will be Kimberli Rowley (Barbara), Samantha Kennedy (Ivy) and Shea-Mikal Green (Karen). Rowley is the Co-Artistic Director of the Cumberland Theatre and recently appeared as Lady Macbeth in Macbeth. Kennedy was last seen as Sarah in the musical Company and Green has appeared at CT in The Importance of Being Earnest, Avenue Q and Boeing, Boeing.


Also returning to CT are Matt Baughman (Bill), Mike Virts (Steve), Nicole Halmos (Mattie Fae), Bill Dennison (Little Charles) and Jim Wicker (Charlie). Baughman has appeared with CT in Noises Off, Dracula and Legally Blonde. Virts is the Artistic Director of Our Town Theatre in Oakland and was last seen on the CT stage in A Streetcar Named Desire. Halmos recently starred as Della in this season’s production of The Cake. Dennison last appeared as Austin in True West and Wicker made his debut in 2017’s production of Yankee Tavern and, since then, has appeared in Noises Off and Dracula.


Making their CT debuts will be Cailin Peluso (Jean) and Alexis Geyer (Johnna). Peluso lives in Bel Air, MD and has trained at the New York Film Academy and Everyman Theatre. Geyer is a visiting actor from Kansas City, Missouri.


The cast is rounded out by Seth Thompson (Sheriff Gilbeau) and Tom Valentine as the patriarch (Beverly Weston). Thompson was recently seen as Lee in True West and the titular role in Macbeth. Valentine is a local theatre veteran who has served as the Artistic Director for Up Front Community Theater, Stage Left Theater, Potomac State College, and The Embassy Theatre.


The show is being directed by Nicole Mattis. The creative team is comprised of Jennifer Clark (costume design), Rhett Wolford (set design), Megan O’Brien (lighting design), Eric Ringler (props design), Shea-Mikal Green (intimacy coordinator) and Darrell Rushton (fight director). The run crew consists of Hayden Kline (stage manager), Elizabeth Mudge (assistant stage director), Seth Thompson (fight captain).


Performances will be Thursdays – Saturdays at 8:00 pm and Sundays at 2:00 pm. There will be a complimentary wine and cheese reception following the opening night performance on Friday, August 26th. Tickets can be purchased at cumberlandtheatre.com or by calling the box office at 301-759-4990.


Please note the show contains violence, adult situations and strong language and may not be suitable for all audiences. Parental discretion is encouraged.


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Catch The Comedy of Errors with a pop 80s twist this weekend only...

The Cumberland Theatre is presenting the fourth annual Shakespeare in the Park this weekend at the Gilchrist Gallery Garden in Cumberland on July 29th and 30th and at the Grantsville Town Park on July 31st. Performances will begin at 7:30 pm and last approximately one hour. Admission is free and community members are invited to bring blankets or lawn chairs and enjoy an evening of outdoor theatre.

This year CT is teaming up with the Embassy Theatre to present The Comedy of Errors - one of Shakespeare's earliest works. Set in the city of Ephesus, the play tells the story of two sets of identical twins who were accidentally separated at birth. Antipholus of Syracuse and his servant, Dromio of Syracuse, arrive in Ephesus, which turns out to be the home of their twin brothers, Antipholus of Ephesus and his servant, Dromio of Ephesus. When the Syracusans encounter the friends and families of their twins, a series of wild mishaps based on mistaken identities lead to wrongful beatings, a near-seduction, the arrest of Antipholus of Ephesus, and false accusations of infidelity, theft, madness, and demonic possession.


Directed by Tim Bambara (former Artistic Director of the Embassy), this version of Comedy of Errors is being set in the pop world of the 1980s complete with colorful costumes, music of the era and plenty of pop culture references.


The cast is comprised of both local and visiting actors. Heading the cast as the two Antipholuses are Seth Thompson and Erik Alexis. Thompson was last seen as Lee in True West and the title role in Shakespeare's Macbeth. Alexis has last appeared in Reefer Madness the Musical. Playing the Dromios will be Dante Santos and Jamiel Burkhart - both recently on stage in this month's Rock of Ages.

Other cast members recently seen in Rock of Ages are Kimberli Rowley (Adriana), Morganne Chu (Luciana), Katelyn Shriener (Balthazar), and Jmonet Hill (Officer). Also appearing in the show are Tyler Gilks (Angelo), Robert Smith (Dr. Pinch), Ebony Gennes (Duke of Ephesus), Sean Besecker (Aegeon) and Emily Haworth (Amelia).


The production staff includes Caitlin Weems (assistant director/fight director), Rhett Wolford (set design), Elizabeth Mudge (costume design), Em Uranga (stage manager) and Hayden Kline (sound tech).


The show is being sponsored by Ray and Brenda Morris through the Community Trust Foundation with other funding from the Garrett County Arts Council and Grantsville Arts and Entertainment District.


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