MARCH 2024 | Volume 237


Production image

Photographer Nancy Caldwell.

The Trip to Bountiful
by Horton Foote
United Players
Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery St.
Mar. 22-April 14
$34/$29/$15 or 604-224-8007 ext. 2

Set in Texas in 1953, Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful is a gentle, low-key exercise in nostalgia for an idyllic pre-war American dream. Mrs. Carrie Watts (Erla Faye Forsyth) lives in a Houston apartment with her son Ludie (Richard Meen) and daughter-in-law Jessie Mae (Kapila Rego), but longs to return to the small town of Bountiful where she grew up.

Mrs. Watts is a cross between Amanda from The Glass Menagerieand A Streetcar Named Desire’s Blanche, but without the histrionics and gentlemen callers. Bountiful is Mrs. Watts’ Belle Reve and she can, it turns out, depend on the kindness of strangers. Forsyth delivers an exquisite naturalistic performance, ably complemented by Meen, Rego, and a large supporting cast under Ron Reed’s direction.

Mrs. Watts and her son are the genteel poor. He addresses his mother as Ma’am, and she speaks to her daughter-in-law with the same honorific. Jessie Mae is rather more vulgar, or no, let’s say aggressive. Devoted to herself and her trips to the beauty parlor, she findsMrs. Watts constantly annoying, even though they are living partly offher pension checks since Ludie has been sick and out of work. She verbally bullies Mrs. Watts: “This is my house and you’ll do as you’re told,” she screams, especially bothered by Mrs. Watts’ attempts to run off back to Bountiful.

Ah, Bountiful. She can’t stop thinking about it, talking to Ludie about it, and plotting to get back there. In the second half of the play she sneaks off and makes the journey with the assistance of Thelma (Cassie Unger), a kindly fellow traveler; a helpful bus station ticket agent (Stephen Elcheshen); and a good-natured sheriff (Oliver de la Harpe). She’s also comforted on the rocky trip by the hymns she sings to herself, voiced on stage by a chorus of shadowy figures, led by (I think) the beautiful voice of Mercedes Lovemore.

Despite being a deserted dustbowl ghost town, Bountiful provides Mrs. Watts and her family with multiple bounties in a curious transformative ending. Paradise Lost is Paradise Regained.

I love all the acting in this piece and the positivity it exudes. I also appreciate Reed’s elegant direction. Ultimately, though, I found the experience quietly dull. Personally, I’ll take Tennessee Williams’ exoticism and the trips of the Sixties over the polite, transcendent journeys, both outer and inner, that this play celebrates.



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