Having seen “The Trip to Bountiful” many times, each with the same wrenching emotional effect, I wasn’t sure my heart could stand another visit just now. But after reading the article for my Arts & Leisure broadcast for the blind on Cicely Tyson this morning, I decided to go today.
The play tears me up because for many years I made first monthly, then weekly, trips to my own version of Bountiful, Texas–to visit my parents in their rapidly deteriorating house, filled with their rapidly aging lives. Horton Foote writes his elderly mother character with great tenderness and understanding. Her need to see her collapsing old house in Bountiful helps her deal with how empty and meaningless her life has become. Admittedly, seeing my parents in their home did not help me deal with the empty meaninglessness of their lives, or my own. But the yearning Mrs. Watts feels in the play makes sense inside my bones.
So, I’m glad I went back there again today.
While no words of the play were changed, the cast and the incredible sets were changed with an added layer of meaning. All the cast, except for the white sheriff, are African American, with Cicely Tyson heading up the all-stars onstage. But they really fad, those tv and movie stars, next to her theater essence.
A real highlight was when some of the audience starting singing and clapping with her as she sang a spiritual. Not a common occurrence on Broadway.The New York Times reports that Tyson, 88 years old, traveled to Harrison, TX, where Foote was from, to put her hands in the dirt and find her character. Find her, she did.
The play, in case you haven’t seen it, is very quiet, poignant, and old-fashioned. The other TDF’ers (deeply discounted tickets for non-profit types) around me wondered whether the slow first act would have a payoff. I just smiled and counseled patience. Afterwards, they all agreed, the second act made it all come together.
I cried some tears, my Horton-Foote-gets-me tears, the my-mother-was-like-that tears. And I braved the journey. Let me know if you do, too.