Raleigh Little Theatre’s humorous and ultimately poignant presentation of dramatist and screenwriter Horton Foote’s 1953 Broadway play and Academy Award®-winning 1985 motion picture, The Trip to Bountiful, is more than just another nostalgic stroll down Memory Lane. The titular tiny Texas Gulf Coast town has almost completely dried up and blown away by the time aging widow Mrs. Carrie Watts (played by original RLT diva Ann Dearing Lincoln) returns for one last visit after running away from her son Ludie and daughter-in-law Jessie Mae’s claustrophobic three-room flat in Houston. Carrie risks life and health for one final look at the ramshackle ruins of the house in Bountiful where she grew up and, later, reared her own family.
Ann Lincoln returns to the RLT stage after too long an absence. In the meantime, she may have grown older and grayer — and she may fumble a line or two — but the fierce fire that has always burned within her still sparks her passionate portrayal of runaway senior citizen Carrie Watts. RLT regulars Brent Wilson and Martie Todd Sirois, who play Carrie’s mild-mannered son Ludie Watts and his domineering wife Jessie Mae, head a strong supporting cast. Wilson brings sympathy to the thankless role of Ludie, always pulled first this way and then that by the eternal tug-of-war between his obstinate wife and mulish mother; and Sirois makes headstrong Jessie Mae Watts a perfect nemesis for headstrong Carrie Watts in their running battles over which woman is going to get her way most often.
Jessica Heironimus is sweet as Carrie’s fellow bus passenger and new young friend Thelma, and Chris Gilland adds a wry cameo as smark-alecky Houston ticket agent 2. But Jake Ferrell is a bit too distant and a bit too aloof as the sympathetic Sheriff sent to corral Mrs. Watts and detain her until her family can pick her up.
The audience at last Saturday night’s performance in RLT’s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre honored the cast with a rare (for Raleigh Little Theatre) standing ovation. Long-time RLT artistic director Haskell Fitz-Simons, set and lighting designer Rick Young, costume designer Jenny Butler, and sound designer Jim Zervas also deserve kudos: Fitz-Simons for deftly orchestrating the emotions so that the play tugs at all the right heartstrings but never becomes maudlin; Young for swiftly transforming the small black-box stage into a variety of locales, including Ludie Watts’ Houston apartment, a couple of bus-station waiting rooms, and the front yard of the Watts’ rundown ancestral homeplace; Butler for creating a striking assortment of mid-1950s fashions; and Zervas for mixing choice snippets of Gospel songs and ambient sound to add authenticity to the proceedings.
Raleigh Little Theatre presents The Trip to Bountiful Thursday-Saturday, March 13-15 and 20-22 at 8:00 p.m.; and Sunday, March 16 and 23, at 3 p.m. in RLT’s Gaddy-Goodwin Teaching Theatre, 301 Pogue St., Raleigh, North Carolina. $18 ($15 students up to and including college and seniors 62+). 919/821-3111 or via etix @ the presenter's site. Note: All shows are wheelchair accessible, and assistive listening devices are available for all shows Raleigh Little Theatre: http://raleighlittletheatre.org. Internet Broadway Database: http://www.ibdb.com/show.asp?ID=8888. Internet Movie Database: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090203/. Horton Foote: http://www.ibdb.com/person.asp?ID=6348 (Internet Broadway Database) and http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0285210/ (Internet Movie Database). The Horton Foote Society: http://hortonfootesociety.org/. “Writing with a Sense of Place” (a lecture by Horton Foote): http://hortonfootesociety.org/.