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Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Vanessa Williams in "Trip to Bountiful" at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre
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Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., and Vanessa Williams in "Trip to Bountiful" at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre

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Nelle Nugent, Kevin Liles, Paula Marie Black
et al.

Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding, Jr., Vanessa Williams
Condola Rashad, Tom Wopat
Devon Abner, Curtis Billings, Arthur French

And an ensemble of actors

The Trip to Bountiful
(Trip to Bountiful Website)

By Horton Foote
Directed by Michael Wilson

At the
Stephen Sondheim Theatre
124 West 43rd Street

Scenic Design: Jeff Cowie
Costume Design: Van Broughton Ramsey
Lighting Design: Rui Rita
Original Music and Sound Design: John Gromada
Hair Design: Paul Huntley
Makeup Design: Angelina Avallone
Advertising and Marketing: AKA
Casting: Caparelliotis Casting
Technical Supervisor: Hudson Theatrical Associates
Press Representative: The Hartman Group
Company Manager: Jennifer Hindman Kemp
Production Stage Manager: Robert Bennett
General Manager: Peter Bogyo

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
April 26, 2013

Cicely Tyson is a magnetic presence in this new production of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful. She has morphs from an aged, angst-filled mother, living with a grown son and his resentful wife, in a tiny 1953 Houston, Texas apartment to a bubbly butterfly in Bountiful. Jeff Cowie has designed an Act I set that reeks of a smothering environment, a two-room space that finds mother-in-law and daughter-in-law both searching the other’s room, simultaneously, looking for Mrs. Carrie Watts’ (Ms. Tyson) monthly government pension check. That check, that’s always cashed at the local store, is Carrie’s sense of self and hope for freedom. That check is also Jessie Mae Watts’ (Vanessa Williams) opportunity to shop or go to the beauty parlor. Jessie Mae spends her days, in the old-fashioned sense, lunching with the girls. Nothing fancy, just drug store gossip time. Carrie’s son, Ludie (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), does a poor job of keeping his mother safe from Jessie Mae’s clawing cruelty. Throughout most of the play, Ludie is passive, dependent, and fearful of his wife’s ire. Horton Foote wrote this play in the early 1950’s, and, like Dividing the Estate, Harrison, TX, and The Orphans’ Home Cycle, a trilogy of remarkable plays, …Bountiful is a study of the human psyche and soul, of tender memories and harsh disappointments, with eloquent language throughout.

When Carrie manages to hide her check and ultimately escape to her hometown of Bountiful, her baggy eyes and wrinkly face miraculously glisten and radiate. For so many years she has been glued to a chair in the midst of her son’s marriage, and for so many years she has read the Bible, praying for an escape. This is a religious and impassioned being, who sings a gospel in pure joy of freedom, with the audience drawn into song, in unison. Carrie has warmly bonded with a stranger, Thelma (Condola Rashad), who assisted her escape, when Carrie’s son was thrown into a search. On the bus to Harrison, Thelma and Carrie spoke of Thelma’s young husband at war and Carrie’s long ago boyfriend, whose love was sabotaged by her father. Carrie and Thelma also do an ingénue dance at the station. Now Carrie is with a woman who likes her, unlike the scheming Jessie Mae. Devon Abner, who appears in all the Foote plays, is a credible ticket agent, and Tom Wopat is the Sheriff, who serves as Carrie’s “deus ex machina”, as he drives Carrie to her Bountiful garden and boarded up homestead. The Act II Bountiful scenery is wistful and magical, filled with vines and chirping birds. Throughout the unfolding scenes, the audience roots for Ludie to show Carrie half the compassion on view from Thelma and the Sheriff. And, when he grows a spine, the audience cheers.

There’s a small band of six musicians and vocalist for this production, on piano, etc., and that music greatly enhances the surreal spiritual quality of this Foote masterpiece. Mr. Cowie’s sets are brilliantly detailed, with Bountiful the bucolic antithesis of Houston’s dustiness. Van Broughton Ramsey’s costumes, especially Jessie Mae’s lingerie, are designed with flourish and period detail. Rui Rita’s lighting shifts from the dreary dimness in Houston to the bright, leafy trees in Bountiful. John Gromada’s sound is clear and his original music is magnetic. Mr. Wilson has directed this cast for poignancy and persuasion, and the effect of his careful attention to Mr. Foote’s provoking dialogue, with all its fleeting comments, is striking. Ms. Tyson has said she wanted one more good play to bring her back to Broadway, after decades of absence on the live stage, and The Trip To Bountiful was the one perfect play for this stunning actress. Ms. Rashad is growing into a mesmerizing actress, as well, and tonight she glowed. Kudos to all. .

Cicely Tyson and Cuba Gooding Jr.
in "Trip to Bountiful"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Vanessa Williams and Cuba Gooding Jr.
in "Trip to Bountiful"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

CCicely Tyson and Condola Rashad
in "Trip to Bountiful"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

Vanessa Williams, Cicely Tyson, Cuba Gooding Jr.
in "Trip to Bountiful"
Courtesy of Joan Marcus

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at