Bountiful’ is straightforward and mostly satisfying with its story of longing and hometown identity

The Trip to Bountiful
8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday
Pollard Theatre
120 W. Harrison, Guthrie

If Central Oklahoma theater had a queen, it would be Brenda Williams. Audiences have watched her grow up in the theater in dramas, comedies, musicals, and contemporary and classical plays, taking on both leading and supporting roles and in a one-woman show. I’ve never seen her give a performance that was off-kilter or lacking in understanding and nuance.

It’s hard for actors to hit every pitch, but Williams comes as close to a perfect career as anyone in theater.

Now, her highness reigns in Pollard Theatre’s production of “The Trip to Bountiful” by Horton Foote. Williams plays Carrie Watts, who lives in a cramped, three-room Houston apartment with her son, Ludie (James Hughes), and daughter-in-law, Jessie Mae (Kris Todd). Ludie has had a hard time; he was out of work for two years with an illness, but has been doing well recently.

His paycheck and Carrie’s pension checks are the family’s sole income. Jessie Mae is “nervous,” a common affliction in women of that time, and she knows she’s losing what charm she may have had. She says that people used to tell her that she looked like a cross between Joan Crawford and Clara Bow, although it’s hard to say if they meant that as a compliment or were making fun of her. Just to make sure that no one misses Jessie Mae’s insecure vanity, director Michael Edsel has her pluck a gray hair from her head while seated before a mirror.

Carrie longs to return to the family farm in Bountiful, Texas, which she left 20 years ago. The town has pretty much dried up and blown away, but that does not restrain her determination.
Her fond memories of a hard but happy life in Bountiful, compared to Houston, sustain her. Ludie says it does no good to remember. Why long for a previously happy existence that is no longer practicably attainable?

The Pollard production is straightforward and mostly satisfying. Theater lovers appreciate attention to detail, so W. Jerome Stevenson’s sound design and Jake DeTommaso’s lighting design are especially notable. Isn’t it interesting that the Pollard usually seems to excel in lighting design?

Michael James’ costumes are authentic, the unfortunate wig that Williams wears notwithstanding. Foote’s script calls for multiple settings, including the apartment, bus stations and the Bountiful farm. James A. Hughes’ set design is OK, but lacks the rich detail one would like to see in this type of work.

Foote, who died last year, created vivid characters, although theatergoers who like plays with a little more meat on their bones would prefer the work of Tennessee Williams, a Southern-gothic contemporary of his. Unlike in Williams’ plays, none of Foote’s characters in “Bountiful” keep any deep, dark secrets. “”Larry Laneer


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