The Trip to Bountiful
Under the sensitive direction of Timothy Douglas, the cast of Foote's The Trip to Bountiful now at Round House Theatre in Bethesda, Maryland, lives up to that requirement. By casting African-Americans in the major roles, Douglas demonstrates both the universality of Foote's characters and the unique resonances of southern black life following World War II and before the civil rights movement: for example, how realistic is the goal of Ludie Watts (Howard W. Overshown) to work his way into an executive position at work?
The heart of the play is Lizan Mitchell as Ludie's mother Carrie, whose determination to return to her hometown of Bountiful before she dies is what drives the plot. Mitchell is a small, compact, birdlike woman whose closely observed performance brings out the nuances of a woman who has survived much heartache and now just wants to rest. After many years living in a tiny Houston apartment with her son and daughter-in-law, Carrie has held onto her bottomless faith: rooted not simply in the words of the Bible and the hymns she sings, but also in the farm fields of her childhood home. Her moods range from childlike wonder to momentary despair to a satisfying stillness.
Overshown shows Ludie as a kind man under pressure; he's caught between two strong women, his mother and his wife Jessie Mae (Chinai J. Hardy), and both of them have legitimate grievances. (The fact that Ludie is returning to work following a serious illness, during which Jessie Mae had to care for both him and Carrie, slips past in a few lines of dialogue.)
Jessica Frances Dukes is radiant as Carrie's seatmate on the bus, while Doug Brown and Lawrence Redmond make a lot out of a little in several minor roles.
Round House Theatre