A bountiful harvest of characters
Judy Cairns/Off Broadway Photography
DOING THE COSMO SEX QUIZ. Ruth Choma (left) and Lucy Williams star in The Trip to Bountiful
The Trip to Bountiful
At Palace Theatre
Jan. 31 - Feb. 8
In this age of satellite communication, can an audience enjoy a slow-moving play about an elderly woman's desire to travel home to Bountiful, Texas?
Even director M. Lucille Grant admits, "If you are looking for suspense or intrigue, you will not find it here. This play is a fascinating character study. Reality and humanity are what shine through."
Pulitzer Prize-winning writer Horton Foote wrote the story as a television play in l953. It was made into an excellent but slow-moving, Oscar-winning film in l985.
The Trip to Bountiful is a period piece set in five different locations in Texas, l947. Widow Carrie Watts (Lucy Williams) lives unhappily in a city apartment with her son Ludie (Peter Luscombe) and his wife Jessie Mae (Cheryl Jennings). Mrs. Watts' ailing heart makes her desire to go home all the more urgent. Surprisingly, there is humour to be found as proud Mrs. Watts and her nagging daughter-in-law spar over such things as missing government cheques and recipes.
Jennings superbly and believably handles the southern accent, the self-centredness and the irritating qualities her role requires. Luscombe, as Carrie's weak husband, says as much in his silence and physical presence as he does verbally refereeing the hourly disagreements between his mother and his wife.
This play totally depends on the credibility of its central character, the elderly Mrs. Watts. Williams' energy, timing and charisma could make even mediocre material look good. In this case, working with an excellent script, she controls the rhythm of the drama as it quietly unfolds. The only problem with the role is Williams' over-powering stamina she could have whooped anyone who stood in her way. One might go so far as to expect her to grab an axe and start chopping wood when she reached her beloved home. Of course, a will to succeed does empower a person to perform extraordinary feats. Williams' spirited portrayal probably makes for a faster-paced, more entertaining show.
The Trip to Bountiful is highlighted by superb acting. Credit goes to an experienced director (Grant) and a play polisher (Seana McKenna), whose work at Stratford and The Grand Theatre is much-acclaimed. The three major set changes run smoothly and the set itself successfully takes the audience to another time and place.
Two of the smaller roles deserve special mention. Ruth Choma as Thelma warmly embodies the qualities and manners of a young woman travelling alone in the l940s. Harry Bolton, as the Harrison ticket man, displays a rugged scene-stealing ability.
Chances are you've never taken a trip to Bountiful. That in itself makes it an interesting place to go.