BWW Reviews: A TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at SeattleĀ's ACT
Seattle's ACT is kicking off their 2010-2011 season with Horton Foote's classic tale, "A Trip to Bountiful". And while not the most stunning production I've seen, the show still manages to shine and yank at the heartstrings like no other. But then, it's Horton Foote!
The play follows the elderly Carrie Watts on her journey to make it back to her home in the flea speck town of Bountiful. Carrie, now forced to live with her son Ludie and his wife Jessie Mae in their two room apartment, only wants to go back home and so she sneaks away in order to make her way back to Bountiful. But more than just finding her way back to her old house, she, like all the characters in this play, are just trying to find their own home, their own place in this world. And that's where Foote's writing excels. He doesn't beat his audience over the head with any kind of message. He simply presents us with wonderful characters and quietly takes us all on a journey with them. There are no gimmicks or schemes, just plain folk telling a simple story as only a true master like Foote can.
Now I must start off by saying that this play will always have a special place in my heart due to a production I saw in New York a few years ago. And I'm a little biased towards that production as not only was Horton Foote there and his daughter was in the show but the lead was being played by a relative of mine. So not really fair to compare but I'll do my best to focus on this production.
Marianne Owen is lovely in the role of Carrie. She's sweet and endearing and what everyone wants their Grandma to be. And she manages to get the entire audience to fall in love with her which makes her difficulties during the journey that much harder hitting for the audience. Paul Morgan Stetler has a subtle intensity and focus throughout his performance. He deftly showed the portrait of a quiet man caught between two strong willed women whom he loves. Mary Kae Irvin is wonderful if not a bit overly comical as Jessie Mae, the small town wife with big city ideas. And I have to mention a gorgeous turn by Jessica Martin as Thelma, the young woman Carrie meets along her journey. Martin's character is loaded with a quiet anxiety for her own journey while still concerned with her new friend, Carrie.
Add to these wonderful performances the daunting task of ACT and director Victor Pappas to put this story up in the round. Not easy with so many locations and static moments. Especially trying to put up a conversation on a bus so that the audience on all sides can see the actors. A great achievement of simple grace, just like Foote's play itself. I won't give it away; it really just has to be seen. As does the rest of the superb set by Matthew Smucker.
So does this production outshine the other production I saw? There's really no way it could. Is it a good production in its own right? No. It's better than good. It's bountiful.
"A Trip to Bountiful" plays at Seattle's ACT through June 6th. For tickets or information contact the ACT box office at 206-292-7676 or visit them online at www.acttheatre.org.
Photo Credit: Chris Bennion