August: Osage County
Palm Beach Dramaworks in South Florida
By: Aaron Krause - Mar 22, 2023
The last time Nikki Fridh performed in front of an audience, she did so on Palm Beach Dramaworks’ (PBD) stage, or more specifically, in the dead of a Maine winter.
After taking a year off from acting, Fridh finds herself once again on PBD’s stage. But this time, she is not braving a frigid Northeast winter. Rather, she is tolerating the scorching heat of an Oklahoma summer.
Fridh, and many others, will perform in PBD’s upcoming production of Tracey Letts’ Pulitzer Prize-and Tony Award-winning dramedy, August: Osage County, a play that packs plenty of heat. The production runs from March 31 thru April 16 in PBD’s intimate playing space.
The piece takes place in a rambling country home outside Pawhuska, Okla. Letts based the play on his family. More specifically, the piece is about the pain that family members inflict on each other and pass along from generation to generation.
“The Weston clan is so embittered and embattled that ‘dysfunctional’ would be a step up," reads a press release. "Causing most of the damage is the damaged Violet – based on Letts’ grandmother—a drug-addled monster of a mother. Her depleted husband, Beverly, who prefers drinks to drugs, walks out the door and disappears. The Weston daughters and other family members gather around Violet, and the rancor and rage that spill forth have audiences laughing and cringing – often simultaneously – in horrified recognition.”
Fridh will portray Karen Weston, one of three sisters in the family. This production will mark Fridh’s first appearance in a Letts play.
“He’s an incredible playwright,” Fridh said. “The words are just so easy to speak, it’s so honest and genuine. This family just feels really real.”
Fridh added that she thinks audience members will recognize themselves in the characters.
Actually, Fridh took a year off from acting to care for one of her own family members. Specifically, Fridh and her husband Matt’s 17-and-a-half year old dog, Duzee, was ill and required care. Unfortunately, the couple lost Duzee on Feb. 1, and Fridh started rehearsals for August: Osage County a couple of weeks later.
Fridh described Duzee as a “100 percent purebred Mutt,” who resembled a small version of a German Shepherd with floppy ears and also had some Terrier in her. Fridh and her husband adopted Duzee from the humane society when Duzee was 7-months-old.
During her last months, Duzee required much care because “she was a little old lady,” Fridh said. Therefore, Fridh did not act for a year. Rather, she worked part time jobs that would allow her to be with Duzee as much as possible. And when she was not available, Fridh’s folks were available to care for the pet.
Fridh said that she had time to grieve before returning to work on stage. She added that she is glad to be back after spending perhaps her longest period away from the stage.
“I missed being on stage because it’s my favorite place,” the veteran actor said. “I’m an actor. It’s at the core of who I am.”
In fact, Fridh has performed since she was about 5. In addition to performing for neighbors at her home, Fridh portrayed one of the ragamuffins in A Christmas Carol. Ever since appearing in that production as a child, Fridh has been performing onstage.
“There’s just nothing like being onstage in front of a live audience,” she said. She added that she enjoys the collaborative aspect of live theater and always thought there was something magical about performing live in front of an audience.
Even today, Fridh said she gets nervous before entering the stage. However, once she gets into character, those nerves suddenly dissipate.
The last play in which she performed before taking a year off was Almost Maine from Jan. 12-30, 2022 at PBD. That play takes place on a Friday night in the middle of a Maine winter. The piece consists of nine joyful, yet poignant vignettes connected by time and place and centers on different kinds of love – old and new, heart-stopping and weak-kneed, unexpected and unrequited.
This time, PBD audiences can expect “an epic of a play” in August: Osage County. However, the long running time should not concern audiences.
“It flies by,” Fridh said. “It’s over and you’re like, ‘Wait, it’s over?’”
She added she hopes that audience members laugh, feel for the characters, and see themselves in these fictional individuals.
PBD Producing Artistic Director William Hayes is directing the production. Hayes said that when he saw August: Osage County in New York, he knew it “would go down as one of the great American classic plays over time.”
“No matter when you do it, it’s going to be timely,” Hayes said. He added that a play that deals with family dynamics will never “go out of style.”
“If you have a family, you’re going to relate to something that’s going on (in the play),” Hayes said.
In fact, Hayes said that he can guarantee that audience members will relate to at least one of the characters’ journeys.
“If you have a family, you’re going to relate to something that’s going on,” Hayes said.
He said that Letts deftly structured and wrote August: Osage County, his most personal play.
When he saw it in New York, “time just flew by” because the story and characters engaged him so much.
PBD’s upcoming production of August: Osage County opens on March 31 and runs thru April 16. Performances will start at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, as well as 2 p.m. Wednesday, Saturday, and Sunday.
Tickets for all performances are $84, except for opening night ($99) and previews ($64). Student tickets are available for $15, and anyone younger than 40 pays $40 (no additional fees) with a photo ID. Tickets for educators are half price with proper ID (other restrictions apply). Group rates are available through the box office. You can purchase tickets through the box office, in person, or by phone by calling (561) 514-4042, ext. 2, and online 24 hours a day at palmbeachdramaworks.org.
PBD’s Don & Ann Brown Theatre is located at 201 Clematis St. in West Palm Beach. For ticket information, call the box office or go to www.palmbeachdramaworks.org.