BWW Review: Theatre Artists Studio Presents Horton Foote's THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL
In reflecting on Horton Foote at the time of the great American playwright's passing, New York Times theatre critic Wilborn Hampton wrote that "he depicted the way ordinary people shoulder the ordinary burdens of life, finding drama in the resilience by which they carry on in the face of change, economic hardship, disappointment, loss and death." Tess Harper, the Academy Award winning actress, observed that Foote was a "a quiet man who writes quiet people." The playwright himself accentuated these points by affirming his very deep belief in the human spirit: "I've known people that the world has thrown everything at and yet something about them retains a dignity. They face life and they don't ask quarters."
Bundle all these attributes of Foote's work and you have THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL, the poignant tale of Carrie Watts, an ordinary and quiet but strong-willed woman who seeks nothing less than the restoration of her dignity and will travel miles to achieve that end. The journey requires that this gentle and unassuming widow steal away from the endlessly critical and over-protective watch of her self-indulgent daughter-in-law Jessie Mae and Ludie, her weak-kneed son.
Theatre Artists Studio's current production of the play, directed by Carol MacLeod, is a tenderly drawn and moving portrayal of lives lived in constant search of fulfillment.
In a performance that is rich and golden, Judy Lebeau gives the drama its heartbeat. Whether with a wistful glance towards a destination beyond the horizon or a fist pump of defiance, whether peevish or submissive, Lebeau manages, in her distinctive style, to create a character that evokes admiration and empathy. Her ability to move an audience to compassionate tears reveals itself in a final life-affirming scene that brings closure to her quest.
While our hearts may belong to Carrie, we can ill afford to be insensitive to the pressures that drive her son and daughter-in-law to the intemperate zone.
Jessie Mae's shrewish and bossy temperament is born of a woman who believes that she deserves better, is jealous of Ludie's relationship with Carrie, and even resents Carrie's presence. Heidi Haggerty Welborn is terrific in not only channeling Jessie Mae's ferocity but also leaving enough of her vulnerability on the stage floor to elicit a skosh of sympathy.
Ludie likewise cuts a pitiable figure. Recovering from an illness that wiped out his savings, he is anxious to rebound. After only a few months on a new job, he's ready to request a raise. With a heavy drawl that reflects the weight on his shoulders, Ludie is too overwhelmed to be strong enough to defend his mother and too weak to fend off Jessie Mae's demands. Kent Welborn delivers the goods in portraying this beleaguered man in search of self.
Along the way to Bountiful, Carrie enjoys the kindness of strangers. These are the salt of the earth ~ a fellow traveler at the bus station (Ashley Faulkner), helpful ticket agents (George Cohen and Mark Gluckman), and the Sheriff (Bill Mosley) who's been sent to retrieve her.
The power of this play is in its message. We know that home is where the heart is. The question is how far do we have to travel to rediscover it and find solace.
The power of this production is in its direction and casting ~ in bringing us all the way home to Bountiful.
THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL runs through December 15th at The Studio in Scottsdale, AZ.
Photo credit to Mark Gluckman
Theatre Artists Studio ~ https://www.thestudiophx.org/ ~ 602-765-0120 ~ 12406 N. Paradise Village Parkway East, Scottsdale, AZ