Colonial Players' production provides `Bountiful' rewards

Drama feels like eavesdropping on ordinary people

Howard Live

January 17, 2002|By Mary Johnson | Mary Johnson,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Colonial Players' current production of Horton Foote's The Trip to Bountiful offers theatergoers bounteous rewards. The cast's interaction in portraying ordinary people confronting real-life situations is so convincing that the audience should be accused of eavesdropping.

Marking his 18th directing assignment, Colonial Players director Rick Wade has reached a peak with this production in terms of the brilliant cast he has assembled, the honesty portrayed and the seamless unveiling of the plot.

The Trip to Bountiful has a timeless theme that examines the interdependence of family members who cannot get along despite their need for each other.

Revealing how poorly elderly parents and their adult children communicate, the play stresses the older person's need to retain dignity, to enjoy freedom and to cherish dreams of returning to beloved, familiar places.

The mother, son and his wife live in a cramped city apartment where their inability to communicate with each other worsens.

The Bountiful story, which earned Foote an Academy Award nomination for his screenplay in 1985, tells of Carrie Watts, who gets a pension check each month that helps support the family. Her son, Ludie, wants to please his wife and his mother. Self-centered Jessie Mae Watts is unhappy with the living arrangements and frequently lashes out at her mother-in-law.

Carrie, feeling cooped up in the small city apartment, dreams of returning to the quiet of her family home in Bountiful, where the farmland yielded abundant crops.

Jessie Mae is offended by everything about her mother-in-law, including her inability to sleep, her rushing about to serve Ludie and her forgetfulness. One morning, Carrie escapes to the bus station to return to Bountiful.

In her Colonial Players debut, Lonnie Stein as Carrie Watts seems possessed by her character. Whether playing games that annoy her daughter-in-law, expressing her love for her son or acceding to Jessie Mae's demands, Stein's Carrie communicates each emotion so intensely that the audience completely identifies with her.

As Ludie, Richard McGraw, memorable as David in To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday this season, displays the conflict of being caught between the two women he loves. McGraw conveys affection and patience toward his mother and a desperation to please his wife, while revealing frustration at his inability to earn enough money to move to larger quarters.

Also making her Colonial Players debut, Laura Gayvert as Jessie Mae reveals all the selfishness, frustration and raw anger her character possesses. Gayvert expresses her anger in such heated exchanges with Stein and with such deliberate unkindness that we cringe for the older woman.

Each actor in the supporting cast silently portrays feelings ranging from studied indifference to tender sympathy. Seen in Colonial Players' recent Hay Fever, Rebecca Ellis plays a young bride who meets Carrie at the bus station. Ellis expresses a gamut of emotions with great delicacy and without saying a word.

In a cameo appearance, former Annapolis Mayor Dean Johnson plays the ticket agent at the Harrison bus station, showing that he is a capable actor. Mike Gidos is equally at home in the role of the Houston ticket agent.

Bryant Centofanti plays the pivotal role of the sheriff, ultimately enabling Carrie Watts to realize her dream of returning to her Bountiful home.

"The Trip to Bountiful" remains at Colonial Players Theater on East Street in Annapolis through Feb. 9. Ticket information: 410-268-7373.

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