Theater Review - The Trip to Bountiful (NY)

The Horton Foote play, certainly considered a classic, “The Trip toBountiful,” started out on television in 1953! There have been a number of award-winning film and stage productions, but none more tender and funny than the present one at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre on Broadway. Director Michael Wilson has an exquisite touch and the idea of using an African American cast starring Cicely Tyson was inspired. On Jeff Cowie's perfect set, Ms Tyson, who has not been on Broadway for 30 years, does not need Rui Rita's luminous lighting, for the beauty of her smile radiates to the stage and the audience.  If any actor can hold a group in the palm of her hand, it is she! Although this is not a musical, at one point Cicely Tyson sings a hymn and the audience spontaneously and happily joined her.

 

We immediately identify with Cicely Tyson's Ms. Carrie Watts, who is living in a two room cramped  apartment in Houston, Texas with her son, Ludie and daughter-in-law, Jessie Mae. Her bed is the living room couch; but she spends a lot of time in her chair looking out the window, listening to the traffic and planning her escape to her childhood home in Bountiful. Ludie, the sweet-tempered Cuba Gooding Jr., would like to make things better both in his job and relations with his wife.  He's planning to ask for a raise, for now this is the best he can do.  Jessie Mae, short-tempered, sharp-tongued and selfish, is depicted by the gorgeous Vanessa Wiliams; she does well in the part, but is too beautiful to be believed.

Addicted to movie magazines, in this production, she describes herself as a combination of Lena Horne and Rita Hayworth.  

 

Watching in glee as Carrie hides her government check in different places, packs her bag, and finally runs to the bus station, is great fun. On her journey, she meets Thelma, the young wife of a soldier, who is going home to her parents, while her husband goes overseas. In the hands of Condola Rashad, who plumbs the special innocence and wisdom of the role, Thelma turns out to be a turning point in the play.  Through her conversation, we really learn so much about Carrie, her life and her choices.

 

The last scene is always a tear-jerker, and in this production, it is no different.  Bountiful does not really exist anymore. Carrie's best and last friend has just died. Her house is falling apart. The farms are gone. However, the trip has been important for Carrie, who can die fulfilled, and for us; we have seen a masterpiece. 

 

“The Trip to Bountiful” at  the Stephen Sondhem Theatre on Broadway.  

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