The Beginning of August

Garret Dillahunt,theatre,The Beginning of AugustTHE BEGINNING OF AUGUST


Atlantic Theater Company, NYC

September 26 – November 5, 2000

WRITTEN BY: Tom Donaghy



Garret Dillahunt – Jackie
Jason Ritter – Ben
Mary Steenburgen – Joyce
Ray Anthony Thomas – Ted
Mary McCann – Pam


The grass-covered stage and the yellow vinyl-sided house at the side of the stage immediately set the tone for the this could happen to you situation: Jackie is a newly single parent, his wife Pam having walked out on him and their three-month-old baby girl. Unable to afford a hired caretaker, he’s called in his stepmother Joyce who, being recently widowed, has time on her hands.

garret dillahunt,mary steenburgen,the beginning of augustBefore a word is spoken it’s evident that this suburban trauma has lots of psychological baggage to unpack. Not only is Jackie understandably nervous, but he’s compulsively in need to control everything as a way of making order out of internal chaos. His list of rules for his baby sitter include not just the usual emergency contact numbers but rules that include keeping the baby outside to avoid allergic reactions to spores inside the house, to not speak to anyone, not even to answer the phone. Joyce’s willingness to abide by Jackie’s rules has roots that date back to her marrying Jackie’s father and unable to see six-year-old Jackie as anything bt an intrusion into her idea of a happiness. (…)

Garret Dillahunt does a fine job as as control freak. His Jackie is a human rubber band ready to snap any second. Mary Steenburgen manages to be enchantingly mischievous, vulnerable and scrappy as the desperate to please and heretofore maternally challenged Joyce. The inability of both these people to connect is the most incisive aspect of the play. It is most achingly evident in that they seem to resist any impulse to hold and hug the baby. Even more tellingly, they confide to a tape recorder. The script could use more moments like Joyce’s forlorn “what would friends know about being lonely?” slipped into her gaily taped holiday letter to the friends who disappeared when her husband died. [Curtain Up]