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Review: THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at Ford's Theatre

Review: THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at Ford's Theatre

The production runs through October 16.

Review: THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at Ford's Theatre
Nancy Robinette as Mrs. Carrie Watts.
Photo by Scott Suchman.

Ford's Theatre opens the season with Horton Foote's midcentury family drama The Trip to Bountiful, an incredible showcase for Nancy Robinette, one of Washington's foremost actors, who skillfully drives the production as Mrs. Carrie Watts who yearns to leave the small Houston apartment of her son and daughter-in-law to return to her Texas homeland, Bountiful.

The Trip to Bountiful explores the compromises and constraints of Carrie, her overprotective son Ludie, and strong-minded daughter-in-law Jessie Mae. The three are crowded into shared living quarters; Carrie's pension check helps with living expenses. Carrie, who suffers from "sinking spells" is eager to escape the city and go home to Bountiful before she dies. She pockets her pension check and gives Ludie and Jessie Mae the slip and begins the journey back.

Robinette brings strength, verve and dignity to the aging Carrie who longs to return to the community of her roots and her youth. With just the set of her shoulders or nod of her head, Robinette fills us in on Carrie's true feelings.

Joe Mallon as Carrie's son Ludie and Kimberly Gilbert as daughter-in-law Jessie Mae are striking in their roles and great foils to Robinette's Carrie. As the self-absorbed Jessie Mae, Gilbert ushers us onto the rollercoaster of Jessie Mae's emotions - flouncing and eye-rolling, bored and distrustful, happy simply to get a Coca-Cola at the drugstore. Mallon's hen-pecked Ludie has a big heart and low self-regard; he is caught in the middle of the two women, unable to bring peace to the household.

Review: THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at Ford's Theatre
Joe Mallon as Ludie Watts and Kimberly Gilbert as Jessie Mae Watts.
Photo by Scott Suchman.

Though in smaller roles, the rest of the cast is equally strong. Emily Kester is Thelma, a young newlywed returning to her parents' home while her husband is serving abroad in the military. Carrie opens up to Thelma as their bus wends its way through Texas. In one memorable moment, Thelma and Carrie sing hymns together (Jessie Mae won't allow hymn-singing at home because it makes her nervous) - Kester and Robinette's voices blend beautifully. Marty Lodge is a gruff but understanding sheriff. Chistopher Bloch as Roy reminisces with Carrie about the community decades ago. Michael Glenn, Will Cooke, Nicola Daval, Drake Leach and Mary Myers complete the cast.

Tim Mackabee's scenic design moves us through Carrie's journey. The Watts family apartment is cluttered, dark and claustrophobic. There is no peace or privacy for any of the family members. The bus and train stations bring more space and freedom. In the final scene, Mackabee's gorgeous set features broad blue skies and amber grasses of the Texas coast. Rui Rita's lighting design supports these distinct places. John Gromada's compositions and sound design add a lushness to the production. Ivania Stack's costumes play with midcentury colors, formality and silhouettes.

Review: THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL at Ford's Theatre
Nancy Robinette as Mrs. Carrie Watts and Emily Kester as Thelma.
Photo by Scott Suchman.

The production is directed by Michael Wilson, the leading interpreter of playwright Horton Foote's work. Wilson directed premieres of several of Foote's plays and collaborated with the Oscar and Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright until Foote's death in 2009.

Ford's Theatre originally planned the production for its 2020-2021 season but could not produce it then because of the pandemic. However in a post-Covid world, The Trip to Bountiful gains added resonance with its themes of longing, family, worth, endurance, and the need for empathy.

The Trip to Bountiful at Ford's Theatre features a magnificent and gifted cast bringing life to work by one of the nation's most skillful playwrights.

Running Time: 2:15 with one intermission

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL by Horton Foote is produced by Ford's Theatre, 511 10th Street NW. The production runs through October 16. For tickets, accessible performance information, COVID-19 attendance policies, or further information visit the company's website.

THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL is directed by Michael Wilson. The production features scenic design by Tim Mackabee, costume design by Ivania Stack, lighting design by Rui Rita, sound design by John Gromada, hair and make-up design by Danna Rosedahl, dialects and voice direction by Lynn Watson. The production team also includes Production Stage Manager Brandon Prendergast and Assistant Stage Manager Julia Singer.

Photo Credits: Scott Suchman




From This Author - Pamela Roberts

Pam came to Washington for the politics but instead found a home in its cultural community. For more than 20 years, Pam worked behind the scenes in DC’s non-profit theatres as a grant writer ... (read more about this author)


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