THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFULBy Horton Foote
The Core Theatre
Director: Stan Kelly
Stage Manager: Min Vu
Set/ Lighting Designer: James Hansen Prince
Sound Design: Robbi Holman
Board Operator: Arianna Cinello
Costumer: Robin Coulonge
Hair and Makeup: Roxi Taylor
Carrie Watts - Mary Tiner
Ludie Watts- Brian P. Madden
Jessie Mae Watts- Anne Carroll
Thelma- Tomiah Bradley
Sheriff/Man #1- Daniel White
Ticket Agent #1/Woman #1- Robin Daffinee Coulonge
Ticket Agent #2/Woman #2- Miracle Lewis
Ticket Agent #3//Man #3- Jeff McIntosh
Reviewed Performance: 3/26/2023
Reviewed by Mildred Austin, Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL premiered on March 1, 1953, on NBC TV before hitting the Broadway stage from November 3, 1953, to December 5th that year. It first starred Lillian Gish in the lead role as Carrie Watts,. In 1985 the play was made into a film starring Geraldine Page and in 2013, it was revived on the Broadway stage with Cicely Tyson, making her first Broadway appearance in 20 years. The heft of those actors’ names lets you know that the role of Carrie is central to the theme of the play. Although it is filled with comedic moments, it is considered to be in the genre of drama.
Themes of elder abuse and ageism–parents having to live with their children as they age, and people’s assumptions regarding the elderly appear through the characters of Carrie’s son Ludie and his wife, Jessie May. Carrie cannot live alone due to financial and health concerns, so she is living with the ineffective son, Ludie, and the demeaning and demanding daughter-in-law, Jessie Mae. Both are guilty of infantilizing Carrie, treating her as if she were a child. I understand. As a senior myself, I am often treated as if I can’t lift or carry anything or understand or remember anything as well. I knew immediately when the world graduated me into old age; it was when cashiers, sales folk and wait staff started calling me “Sweetie” and “Miss Mildred”. They didn’t do that when I was 50 but by 60 I had new names. I prefer to ask for help when I need it and do it for myself when I don’t. The play touches on all our anxieties as seniors: being forced to live in a place not our own with our activities limited by space, mobility, finances, and health issues.
Never fear. Mary Tiner as Carrie Watts embodies a deep understanding of an older woman trapped by finances and health issues and forced to live with a son who adores her but cannot protect her from his demanding, resentful wife. Tinder’s facial expressions were inexhaustible and priceless. This character carries the requirement of maintaining her “glass full” persona while suffering abuse from her daughter-in-law. It was lovely to experience her joy in returning to Bountiful, the town in which she grew up and which contains all her memories.
The role of Carrie is extremely demanding in that she IS the play, the story is HER. She carries it onstage for all but the briefest moments offstage and her monologues are many and immense Tiner never lost our love and attention. She was a joy to encounter.
Brian P. Madden, a policeman in a former life, took on the role of Ludie Watts, Carrie’s soft son who loves his mother but can’t protect her. Madden captured the softness of Ludie, the man who still wants to be babied by his mother. His stage presence was indicative of his character and easily noted by the audience. One thing I would suggest, however, is that Madden not let his very good characterization of Ludie in face and body soften his voice. He was at times exceedingly difficult to hear.
Anne Carroll took on the role of the “villain,” the whiny, manipulative, demanding Jessie Maie Watts. Carroll has her teeth and claws into the unpleasant character who is at the same time laughable. Carroll expertly swings between Jessie’s various moods. She can be loving to her husband one moment, then whining and complaining the next. She continually infantilizes her mother-in-law because of Carrie’s advanced age, but, I think, partly because she enjoys taking out her frustration on the person she sees as holding her back. Carroll gives the audience the perfect shallowness and silliness of a woman who feels burdened by the direction her life has taken.
Tomiah Bradley is a breath of pure sweetness when she makes her appearance as Thelma, a young traveler Carrie encounters in the train station as she makes her way to Bountiful. Bradley allows her character to be slowly pulled into Carrie’s story and then, once in, to be the open-hearted companion Carrie longs for. New to the Dallas Theatre scene, it appears Bradley won’t be a “newbie” for long. Trained as a singer, she can afford in this role to open up her voice and project to the very back row. She can master being both sweet in voice and also being heard on that proverbial back row.
Daniel White is the epitome of the looks, voice, and character of the sheriff sent to capture Carrie and bring her home. White has an easy stage presence and it was not a problem to believe the director found a real sheriff to come in and do the part!
And a shout out to all ya’ll who sacrificed to be at rehearsals and performances in the small roles of ticket master, woman #1 etc. You really together made the statement: “There are no small roles….” true. You filled out what was necessary to make the show work and you did it with humor, enthusiasm, and dedication that was appreciated!
Stan Kelley and James Prince, pat yourselves heartily on the back. Through your direction and set design, you pulled together a lovely afternoon of theatre that spoke to my heart. You chose the best to bring Foote’s words forward and to put just the perfect costumes on them and get them onstage when they were supposed to be there. Thank you so much for being able to enjoy once again this trip to a town I loved seeing through the eyes of Carrie Watts.
The Core Theatre, 518 W. Arapaho Road, Richardson, Texas 75080
Plays through April 9
Fridays and Saturdays at 8:00 p.m. Sundays at 3:00 p.m.
For information and ticket orders go to https://thecoretheatre.org