Los Angeles Theater Preview: THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL (Ahmanson Theatre)

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by Tony Frankel on September 24, 2014

in Theater-Los Angeles

COME HOME TO THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL

The Trip to Bountiful, Horton Foote’s plaintive 1953 teleplay (adapted for Broadway and for the 1985 film with Geraldine Page), paints a picture of rural America in the 1940s that gently reminds us that there was (and may still be) a place in this country where people tip their hats and say, “Yes, Ma’am.” It’s one of my favorite plays, and the 2013 Broadway Revival Production of this lovely gem, an evocative masterpiece of narrative, opens Friday at the Ahmanson. This potent reminder that there is an art to storytelling is exactly what’s needed to shake off the blues.

Cicely Tyson, Blair Underwood and Vanessa Williams in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

At heart, this is a classic adventure tale where our heroine, the aged Carrie Watts (Cicely Tyson), is determined to return to her childhood Gulf Coast home of Bountiful, but she needs to escape her overprotective son Ludie (Blair Underwood) and his nagging wife Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams). The Coca-Cola swilling shrew Jessie Mae would rather be at the Beauty Parlor than watching over Carrie, but her mother-in-law has repeatedly tried to run away with pension check in hand. With a fragile heart and sinking spells no doubt empowering her conviction, Carrie actually manages to get on a bus to find the home she hasn’t seen in twenty years.

Cicely Tyson and Jurnee Smollett-Bell and in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

There is a reason that storytelling has a method which has worked for eons: By making a declaration and taking action on that vision, our heroine is beset by challenges and disappointments which cause her to take stock of her life, both past and present. She makes friends along the way who encourage her to keep going, including Thelma (Jurnee Smollett-Bell), a young war bride who actually gleans comfort from Carrie’s hymn singing, which was considered taboo by Jessie Mae back in that two-bedroom apartment in Houston.

Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Pat Bowie, Keiana Richard, Cicely Tyson and Devon Abner in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

Foote’s exposition, narrative and richly-drawn characters elevate his story above the trappings of what could have been a maudlin Hallmark remembrance of ages past. Ultimately, the story is about home—how it is perceived and what that represents. Is it a place that so many strive to flee yet spend a lifetime trying to recreate? Does home represent selective memory and the need to sentimentalize youth? Is it where we grew up or is it a spiritual location? Is it a place to which we belong but where we can never go back? Join Carrie on her amazing sojourn and discover for yourself where it is that you belong. The glorious and heartwarming work of Mr. Foote is a communal experience. Every time I read it or see it, it’s as if the play wraps its arms around me and gently tugs me into a wistful world that no longer exists. Or does it?

Jurnee Smollett-Bell and Cicely Tyson in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

photos by Craig Schwartz

The Trip to Bountiful
Center Theatre Group
in association with ArtsEmerson
Ahmanson Theatre, 601 W Temple St.
scheduled to end on November 2, 2014
for tickets, call (213) 972-4400
or visit www.CenterTheatreGroup.org

Arthur French and Cicely Tyson in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.Cicely Tyson and Jurnee Smollett-Bell in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.Devon Abner and Cicely Tyson in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.Blair Underwood and Cicely Tyson in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.Vanessa Williams in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.Vanessa Williams (background), Cicely Tyson and Blair Underwood and in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.Cicely Tyson and Vanessa Williams in the Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.Cicely Tyson in the critically acclaimed, Tony-nominated Broadway revival of Horton Foote’s American masterpiece “The Trip to Bountiful” at the Center Theatre Group / Ahmanson Theatre. Photo by Craig Schwartz.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Kerry English September 28, 2014 at 11:30 pm

It is late and I am dog tired, having no business reading reviews, oops, it is a preview, which explains why you are rhapsodizing about the play (a level of praise I share), but not this production. We saw you at the opening of course and I jumped the gun on your missing the clearly labeled “preview” at the top. “P’s” are surely not to be ignored in the world.

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