The Trip to Bountiful | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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The Trip to Bountiful

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The Trip to Bountiful, American Theater Company. It's impossible to say which works better, the playing or the writing--they're so perfectly melded in Sarah Whitney's staging of Horton Foote's warmly compassionate 1953 drama. Stubborn Carrie Watts attempts to escape the two-room Houston apartment she endures with her sad-sack invalid son and his control-freak wife. Carrie's goal is to return to her country home in Bountiful one last time, hoping to make sense of a life that went wrong from the moment she left the land.

Utterly natural and seemingly inevitable, it's a story generated entirely by the characters: the good-hearted Foote disappears into each of these complex, ultimately decent Texans. A similar familial familiarity enriches the production. Directed by her daughter, Ann Whitney turns Carrie's quest for "dignity and peace" into a passionate pilgrimage that connects us all. Her Steinbeck-size Carrie is flinty, flawed, and awesomely authentic.

The same uncompromising truth telling informs every portrayal, but especially Marty Higginbotham's good-natured but weak son and Janelle Snow's fussy, edgy, hilariously clumsy daughter-in-law. In two radiant scenes Amy Rafa presents a Samaritan without a shred of self-righteousness, and Ron Wells and Tom Geraty depict the kind of concerned citizens we'd all like to think we could become. Finally, Keith Pitts's ingenious set gradually strips away the Houston apartment to reveal the ramshackle Bountiful homestead, which fittingly has been behind the scenes all along.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Johnny Knight Photo.

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