Theatre Mirror Reviews "A Trip to Bountiful"


"What Happened in Boston, Willie"

entire contents copyright 2014 by Tony Annicone

"A Trip to Bountiful"

Reviewed by Tony Annicone

2nd Story Theatre's current upstage show is Horton Foote's "The Trip to Bountiful." This show follows Carrie Watts, 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 escapes her relatives' watchful eyes to realize her dearest dream:to return to her beloved hometown, Bountiful. What starts as an ordinary trip soon becomes an inspiring and life-changing journey of discovery. Director Ed Shea casts these roles wonderfully, garnering terrific performances from his topnotch cast.

The show is perfect for the holiday season portraying an elderly woman's dream of rebirth of her soul after 20 years cooped up in the cramped apartment in Houston. Ed blends the comic and dramtic moments together perfectly. Trevor Elliott designed a unit set with four movable snapshot screens used to change the locations with rear projection from the cramped apartment, to the bus station, on the bus, at the train station and at Bountiful homestead. Horton Foote originally wrote this as a television script in 1953 and then adapted it as a Broadway show the following year starring Lillian Gish as Carrie. In 1985 it was made into a movie with Geraldine Page playing the lead. Paula Faber shines in the role of Carrie, delivering a strong empathetic performance. She captures the hearts of the audience as her bitchy daughter-in-law tries to keep her cooped up and not let her return to the town of her youth. Carrie is yelled at to stop singing hymns in the house, not to run in the house because of her weak heart. Paula's strong portrayal moves you to tears as she begs to be brought to Bountiful before she dies. Carrie is aided by a kind stranger she meets at the bus station, the nice train clerk and the understanding sheriff who helps her with the last 12 miles of her journey. Paula's interactions with the other performers is superb and she delivers a tour-de-force performance, almost never leaving the stage in this demanding well written role. When she utters she wants her strength and dignity back it tugs on your heartstrings. This realistic show impacts the audience because they know or know of folks like Carrie in every day life.

Nathanael Lee plays her well meaning but hen pecked son, Ludie. He wants to better himself by asking for a raise at work and tries to be the peacemaker between his overbearing wife and his beloved mother. His best scene is when he finally explodes at his wife to behave at Bountiful after she beeps the horn several times. The tender scene between mother and son is excellently portrayed. Lara Hakeem delivers a strong performance as the unlikable daughter-in-law, Jessie-Mae. She is very demanding and complains about Carrie's gospel music and singing and her trying to run away to her old homestead. Jessie-Mae is more interested in going to the beauty shop or drinking cokes at the drug store. Lara's portrayal of this pretty harridan brings comic relief to this dramatic show.. Erin Olsen delivers the goods as the comforting stranger, Carrie meets on her journey on the bus and tells her many family secrets including wishing she was her daughter. Bill Oakes plays the nice train clerk who has Carrie's missing purse brought back to her while Joe Henderson plays the understanding sheriff who makes her dream come true at last. Eric Behr plays the guitar onstage and sings many different gospel numbers including "How Great Thou Art", "Precious Lord", "Just a Closer Walk with Thee" and "Amazing Grace." So for a heart warming well acted and directed show, be sure to catch "The Trip to Bountiful" where you will laugh and cry at all the appropriate moments. It is definitely a show that will melt your hearts during this cold winter season.

“The Trip to Bountiful” (21 November - 21 December)
@ Downstage Theatre, 28 Market Street, WARREN RI

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide