Drama beats out 'Yellow Face,' 'Dying City'

Scribe Tracy Letts nabbed the 2008 Pulitzer for drama for his play “August: Osage County,” currently logging strong sales on Broadway in a glowingly reviewed production.

Christopher Shinn’s “Dying City,” which played Lincoln Center Theater last spring, and David Henry Hwang’s “Yellow Face,” at the Public last fall, were named finalists for the kudos, announced Monday.

Pulitzer potential for “August” had been buzzed about since the show preemed at the Steppenwolf in Chicago last summer. A sprawling drama with 13 characters, three acts and a running time of close to 3½ hours, “August” is the kind of ambitious fare that, with its focus on the American family, seems a no-brainer for the award.

“That front-runner thing is tough when you read things like ‘It’s his to lose,’” Letts said soon after hearing of his win. The playwright-thesp was previously a Pulitzer finalist in 2004 for his play “Man From Nebraska.”

After the Chi run won raves from local critics and visiting Gotham press, “August” transferred to Broadway’s Imperial Theater in the fall with Jeffrey Richards (“Spring Awakening”) spearheading the producing team. The majority of the large Chicago cast, little known in Gotham, reprised their roles in a production helmed by Anna D. Shapiro.

New York previews were stalled by the 19-day stagehands strike in November, but spotlight-grabbing reviews after the Dec. 4 opening boosted biz to the level of a hit. The show is consistently one of the top-selling straight plays on the Rialto, second only to the starry revival of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” that opened in March.

“August” was originally booked in the Imperial for a limited run, but the show’s success has prompted a skedded move to the Music Box for an open-ended engagement.

The Pulitzer looks poised to keep sales momentum strong, as will mounting talk of a likely Tony win.

The play shuts down April 20 at the Imperial (a venue promised to incoming tuner “Billy Elliot” in the fall) and resumes at the Music Box April 29.

Letts’ prior Gotham offerings were “Killer Joe” and “Bug,” which both played Off Broadway. Next up for the scribe is a new play, “Superior Donuts,” a comedy set in a donut shop set for a summer run at Steppenwolf.

Click here to read the review of “August: Osage County”

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