THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFULby Horton Foote
Richardson Theatre Centre
Director – Janette Oswald
Scenic Designer – Charles A. Alexander
Lighting Designer – Darien Graham
Scenic Design Video – Janette Oswald and Becky Byrley
Costume Designer – Rachael Lindley
Properties Master – Janette Oswald and Autumn Richardson
Stage Manager – Autumn Richardson
CAST (from reviewed performance)
Carrie Watts – Karen Jordan
Ludie Watts – David Plybon
Jessie Mae Watts – Rachael Lindley
Houston Ticket Agent – Richard Stephens, Sr.
Thelma – Meagan Black
Driver / Bus Station Man – Ben Richardson
Houston Ticket Agent 2/Driver – Hal Heath
Bus Station Woman – Becky Byrley
Roy – Lloyd Webb
Sheriff – Charles A. Alexander
Singer – Madeleine Einfalt
Reviewed Performance: 6/6/2014
Reviewed by Scott W. Davis , Associate Critic for John Garcia's THE COLUMN
The Trip to Bountiful follows Carrie Watts in her twilight years. She’s an active, highly motivated widow living in a cramped apartment in Houston in the spring of 1953 with her son and daughter-in-law. Carrie realizes her dearest dream is to return to her beloved hometown, Bountiful, TX. With a pension check in her pocketbook, and without her son and daughter-in-law knowing, she sets out to fulfill her wish.
Horton Foote wrote this little gem back in the early 1950’s. It first appeared on the television network NBC as a theatre piece in 1953, featuring Lillian Gish and Eva Marie Saint. The audience response was so good it moved to the Henry Miller Theatre on Broadway with very few changes done to it. Actress Jo Van Fleet played Jessie Mae Watts and won a Tony Award for Best Featured Actress in a Play. The show became a favorite in the regional theatre scene for years but eventually found its way back to New York. In 1985, Mr. Foote helped launch the film The Trip TO Bountiful staring Geraldine Page, John Heard, Carlin Glynn, Richard Bradford, and Rebecca De Mornay. Geraldine Page was recognized by the Academy with an Oscar for Best Actress.
It reemerged Off Broadway in 2005 at the Peter Norton Space. Once again, the show rattled the cages on the awards scene with five Drama Desk nominations, Three Outer Critics Award nominations, an Obie nomination, and six Lucille Lortel Award nominations. The 2005 show was magical in many ways, but for Horton Foote it was majestic. His own daughter, Hallie Foote, got to portray Jessie Mae Watts and won the Lucille Lortel Award for Best Outstanding Actress, while Horton himself was awarded The Drama Desk Lifetime Achievement Award. 2013 brought the latest revival of this show to Broadway. This time Cicely Tyson brought out her best, recreating Carrie Watts and being rewarded with a Tony Award for her efforts. In all of my research, every time the show has been produced on or off Broadway it has received accolades.
I was excited walking into the theatre space this time. The space was open with no flats or platforms to be seen. There was a simple setting with a table, some chairs, a rocking chair, an armoire and a bedroom set. Right away you figured out it was the apartment. There was a large white drop on their upstage wall with a video projection of the Trip to Bountiful graphic on it.
Director Janette Oswald’s concept for the show became apparent the minute the show started, with Madeleine Einfalt in a single light, singing acappella. Oswald’s use of a singer between scenes helped distract your eyes from the changes. Ms. Oswald went minimalistic with the scenery with this show but it worked extremely well, It allowed the actors to become the focal points. The projections weren’t over done like some productions seen in the area. Ms. Oswald used them more as a backdrop than anything else. They were used mainly to show time of day or location rather than becoming part of the set.
The choices made as far as the casting of the main characters were extremely good. There were a couple of times that I heard the actors stumble or miss trigger lines, but they recovered so well I don’t think anyone that hasn’t read the script would know it. Ms. Oswald’s blocking was great from the audience’s standpoint. She made sure there was action in front of all three seating areas so everyone felt like they got a little bit of the performance just for them.
Charles A. Alexander’s minimalistic set really helped to move the scenes along. His design consisted of units on wagons which was brilliant for scene changes. Everything for the next scene just rolled in on one cart. I know this is going to sound weird, but my favorite piece was the front porch. As it came out I thought it was just a 4x8 platform with a box on it. Then they unfolded it and Voila!, it’s a twelve foot porch with a flower box on it.
The lighting design by Darien Graham was extremely good after the first scene, which had all the action down stage of the apartment, and too many times I was trying to find actors, as they were in dark spots. After that, the action moved a little more up stage and the lighting became extremely even, with the actors all well lit.
Rachel Lindley found some of the best, period dresses and accessories I think I’ve ever seen. During the bus station scene, Thelma came out in a beautiful, nicely form fit dress with what I do believe was a cherry print all over it. It really reminded me of the 50’s style of dress. I found I also loved the slinky red dress Jessie Mae wore towards the end of the show. The men’s clothing was spot on as well. Well fitting for the period but the finishes were the best. All of the accessories were perfect, from the hats the men wore to the headpieces of the women. Her attention to detail could be seen in all the outfits.
The show’s first scene is in the Houston apartment of Ludie Watts. It’s evening, Jessie Mae and Ludie Watts are trying to sleep but Ludie’s mother Carrie is still awake. Karen Jordan’s portrayal of Carrie Watts was impeccable. Not only did she have tremendous amounts of dialogue through the entire show, she also had a ton of stage direction dictating the way she’s supposed to move. I was really impressed by how she used her movements and facial expressions in the final scene to show her feelings of finally being home. The ecstasy of finally getting to Bountiful was written all over her face.
David Plybon’s portrayal of Ludie Watts was just as impeccable. I have to give him credit with being able to play alongside two extremely strong women and not get lost in the background. Mr. Plybon took the character slightly to the strong side but kept him docile enough to let his wife take control at times. His facial expressions through the show were great. I couldn’t stop laughing during the scene where his wife was bickering about his mother.
Rachel Lindley pulled together a great portrayal of Jessie Mae Watts, the wicked daughter-in-law. Where the other actors showed emotion and response with their bodies, Ms. Lindley didn’t show any emotion even while saying some of the rudest things. . It truly made her character even more sinister. In the end, Ms Lindley transformed her character into a more understanding daughter-in-law. The trip to Bountiful gives Jessie Mae a conscience and the transformation was just fun to watch.
Actors in smaller roles that need kudos for a job well done would have to be Meagan Black as Thelma and Lloyd Webb as Roy. Thelma’s interaction with Carrie is crucial for the play to develop and Ms. Black knocked it out of the park. She played off of Ms. Jordan well and evoked a true sense of caring for the elderly Watts. Through all her scenes, Black was extremely believable. Lloyd Webb played Roy as a guy that’s just doing his job, but his swagger and the way he handled Jessie Mae Watts was so caring it was almost touching to watch.
Richard Stephens, Sr., Ben Richardson, Hal Heath, Becky Byrley and Charles A. Alexander all had much smaller roles, some didn’t even have lines, but I had to mention them. They were the heart of the stage crew. The entire cast helped with every scene change. Nobody ever mentions the stage crew unless they stink, but this group was perfect. They were quiet and stealthy with every scene change, never once disruptive.
Now the playbill lists two singers, Laura Merchant and Madeleine Einfalt. There was no mention in the curtain speech about who was playing the singer in the play for that performance, so I was expecting to see two singers. To no avail, I only saw one. Luckily for me I knew which actress was singing so I could give proper credit to her, but a new patron or someone who had never seen a show in the DFW area would never know. Madeleine Einfalt was the singer opening night. WOW, what a voice. I have a funny feeling we’ll be seeing more and hearing more from this young lady.
Critics are supposed to be objective but sometimes it’s hard to do that. It especially becomes hard when you’re going to see a play whose script, no matter how well written it is, bored you while reading it. Richardson Theatre Centre has done a brilliant job with this play, going above the mark. Horton Foote would be proud to have his name on this production.
Richardson Theatre Centre
518 W. Arapaho Road
Richardson, TX 75080
The production runs through June 22nd
Shows are Thursday at 7:30 pm, Friday - Saturday at 8:00 pm, and Sunday at 2:00 pm.
Tickets are $20.00 Thursday and Sunday, and $22.00 Friday-Saturday. Groups of eight or more receive a $2.00 discount.
For information and to order tickets, go to http://www.richardsontheatrecentre.net
Tickets can also be ordered by phone at 972-699-1130