Regional Reviews: Cleveland & Akron
The Trip to Bountiful
I was fortunate to see Lillian Gish and Eva Marie Saint in The Trip to Bountiful on TV when I was a young child. I remember crying. Some of those same emotions came to the top when I saw the production of The Trip to Bountiful in the Cleveland Play House. This is one of the early masterpieces of playwright Horton Foote (1916-2009). Foote is remembered for receiving the Academy Award (1962) for the screen adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird. He received his second Academy Award (1965) for the original screenplay for Tender Mercies. In 1995, Foote received the Pulitzer Prize for the Young Man from Atlanta.
The Trip to Bountiful is the story of Carrie Watts (Lizan Mitchell) who is desperate to leave the cramped three-room apartment in Houston, Texas, that she shares with her son Ludie Watts (Howard W. Overshown) and his wife Jessie Mae Watts (Chinai Hardy). Carrie wants to return to her childhood home in Bountiful, Mississippi. She slips away and travels by bus to Bountiful and finds the renewal needed to live out her life.
I remember a year before my grandfather died, he wanted to go to a certain part of the Ohio River. He had fished there as a boy. He stood on a high precipice and looked at the river for about an hour. No one spoke. He turned and returned to the car and drove to his home in silence. We never talked about what had happened there or why it was so important to him. But I'm keenly aware of the parallels between my grandfather's trip to the river and Carrie's wish to visit Bountiful.
Timothy Douglas (director) wanted to present this play with an African-American cast; the script, director and cast work beautifully. The only Caucasian in the cast is Lawrence Redmond, who plays the ticket agent/sheriff.
Douglas said the script is presented without a change in lines. Yet the story is performed by an African-American cast and rings as true as it has in any other production. This is a superior cast without one weak link.
Tony Cisek (scenic designer) made the small apartment in Houston so claustrophobic that the tightness of the Watts family's living quarters constricts the audience. When the action of the play moves to Bountiful, the stage opens to permit large gestures and freedom to move. The actors let their movements reflect the size of the playing areas.
Toni-Leslie James (costume designer) has dressed the cast in clothing that represents their social status and reflects the heat of the deep south.
Lillian Gish established The Trip to Bountiful as an unforgettable story. Now, more than fifty years later, Lizan Mitchell and a wonderful cast have created this memorable production.
The Trip to Bountiful plays in the Drury Theatre, Cleveland Play House, through February 27, 2011. For ticket information, telephone 216-795-7000, ext. 4. The next show playing in the Cleveland Play House will be My Name is Asher Lev, March 4-27, 2011. Performance and ticket Information: 216-795-7000, ext. 4, or visit www.clevelandplayhouse.com.
The Trip to Bountiful
- David Ritchey