BWW Review: Good Theater Closes Season with Luminous and Lyrical TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL
Good Theater Artistic Director Brian P. Allen chose to close the season with a lovely, lyrical production of Horton Foote's platy, The Trip to Bountiful, in which Louisa Flaningam's luminous interpretation of Carrie Watts is surely one of the Portland theatre calendar's highlights.
The tender, wistful memoir tells of an aging woman's yearning to return to her childhood home in the small rural Gulf town of Bountiful and there to escape the oppressive life she lives in Houston with her son and his overbearing wife. Though the destination proves not to measure up to her memories and though she is forced to return with her son and daughter-in-law, it is the journey which gives her unexpected strength and rewards. Foote draws his trio of central characters with an unerring ear for the constrained hopes and ambitions of this middle class family, and he creates in Carrie Watts a demanding role requiring a nostalgic innocence, sense of humor, combination of wiliness and naiveté. Moreover, he understands how to humanize his characters, making even the mean-spirited Jessie Mae both credible and empathetic.
Director Brian P. Allen finds all the nuanced notes in the script, giving voice to what is said and the wealth of meaning that occurs in the spaces of the text. He paces the play with a firm but delicate hand, and draws sensitive scene work from the entire cast. The ambitious visual production boasts an attractive set design by Francois Lamothe ( with props Cheryl Dolan, Craig Robinson tech direction/.carpenter) that changes gracefully (thanks to the excellent teamwork of the ensemble/crew) from the Houston apartment to the bus station to the ramshackle Bountiful homestead. Iain Odlin provides the distinctive lighting; Justin Cote the retro costumes, and Steve Underwood the vivid sound track that includes period music and evocative natural sounds for the countryside.
The principal trio of actors each gives strong performances. Christopher Holt is a mild-mannered son and husband, desperately trying to keep the peace between his wife and mother. His Ludie Watts is a gentle, often helplessly exasperated man with modest ambitions and a store of repressed memories and emotions which erupt in a touching exchange with his mother in the final scene. Amy Roche is careful not to make Jessie Mae Watts a complete shrew, finding just the right balance between sharp tongued, domineering ways and a vulnerability and insecurity about her place in her husband's affections. Louisa Flaningam seems born to play Carrie Watts. She finds all the music in the role, all the shifting dynamics and moods, and creates an incandescent portrait of quiet courage and perseverance - the indomitable spirit of a woman who finds joy in the face of life's chain of disappointments.
In supporting roles, Hannah Daly gives a sweet and poignant performance as the young bride Thelma who befriends Carrie on their bus ride; Michael Kimball makes an especially sensitive, folksy sheriff and Glen Anderson a characterful ticket man and a sympathetic Roy. The remainder of the ensemble (Val Bramble, Craig Capone, Griff Kimball, Claire McDougal, David Vincent) flesh out the action and the ambiance of the play.
With The Trip to Bountiful, the Good Theater closes its highly successful fifteenth season that has once again showcased this company's strengths: Allen's spot-on sense of choosing repertoire and his ability to present works that are often complex and subtle; a cohesive production and creative staff who understand the demands of the St. Lawrence Center, and a loyal core of local actors augmented by talented guest artists.
Photos courtesy of Good Theater, Steve Underwood, photographer
The Trip to Bountiful runs at the Good Theater, 78 Congress St., Portland, ME from March 29- April 30, 2017. 207-885-5883 www.goodtheater.com