Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Trip to Bountiful

The Trip to Bountiful
by Roger Smith

Thomas Wolfe admonished that ‘You Can’t go Home Again’ in his book by the same title. Widow Carrie Watts, the main character in The Trip to Bountiful, refused to put any stock in that adage, all the while insisting on returning to her coastal childhood home of Bountiful, Texas. She wanted to visit her childhood girlfriend who still lived in Bountiful, she wanted to go back to where she lived and raised her family, and she wanted to spend some fresh air time away from the apartment where she had done Houston ‘city living’ with her son and daughter-in-law for twenty years.
This production of The Trip to Bountiful features an African-American family cast, pointing out that trauma, arguments, and traditions have no color boundaries. Heading a cast that is packed full of experience and awards, Lizan Mitchell in the role of the widow is nothing short of spectacular in her portrayal of one who wanted to and did go home again – albeit for one day. Mitchell’s Broadway, Off-Broadway, regional theater, television, and movie involvement speak to why she received the Helen Hayes Best Actress Award; Black Theatre Alliance, Best Actress Award; Audelco, Best Actress Award; and Drama Desk and Outer Critics Circle Nominations.
Ludie Watts, Carrie’s son, was played by Howard W Overshown. Overshown was a last minute replacement in the role, having been flown in 48 hours in advance of the show to learn the lines and staging for this production. None of that haste showed in his performance; what did show was his professionalism in the portrayal of his character as he warmed up and softened toward his mother’s wants and needs as the play progressed.
Jessica Frances Dukes, in the role of Thelma, won the hearts of the audience as she worked the lines of the script to become a warm, caring companion to widow Watts on the bus. Dukes holds a Masters of Fine Arts from The Catholic University of America, and has worked at several regional theaters. She was nominated for Outstanding Lead Actress in the Helen Hayes Award Competition.
Chinai J. Hardy, as Jessie Mae Watts, hit the nail on the head as the needy, pushy, uncaring daughter-in-law who was putting pressure on her husband to ‘watch out’ for his mother and her pension check. Hardy roused dislike for her character. Doug Brown and Lawrence Redmond, as Roy and the sheriff, respectively, were convincing as their characters, rounding out the professionalism of the cast.
The Trip to Bountiful is a show well worth seeing. It is entertaining from start to finish, and those who are ‘Bountiful’ fans of Geraldine Page will enjoy Mitchell’s interpretation as well.
The show runs until February 27 at The Cleveland Play House at Euclid and E. 85th. Tickets may be ordered by phoning (216) 795-7000, ext. 4, or online at


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