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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Monday, March 22, 2004

'Bountiful' a heartwarming journey

By Joseph T. Rozmiarek
Special to The Advertiser

Horton Foote's "The Trip to Bountiful" is the new production by The Actor's Group, and the tiny theater in Kaka'ako fairly brims over with the glow it generates.

Carrie Watts (Jo Pruden), on her way to Bountiful, meets a sweet young military bride (Rasa Fournier).

The Actor's Group

In three gentle, character-filled acts, Foote graciously coaxes out the story of an old Texas woman bent on returning to the small town of her youth before she dies.

We meet Carrie Watts (Jo Pruden) as a taciturn insomniac, watching the full moon from the window of a two-room Houston apartment she shares with her son and his wife. On nights like this, she thinks of Bountiful, a town no longer on the map, that represents her home and family.

It is a romanticized memory that she calls on partly to veil the harsher reality of her life in the city. When the land played out and her father died, Carrie sold off what was left of the family farm and used the small profit to pay for an education for her son Ludie. For the past 20 years, she's lived with him, scraping out a living on his small salary and her pension check.

Ludie (Patrick Casey) is adrift in a sickly middle age, blocking out youthful memories and hesitating to ask for a deserved pay raise. Wife Jessie Mae (Holly Holowach) is whining and self-centered, devoid of self-awareness and indulging in small vanities such as Cokes and picture shows.

'The Trip to Bountiful'
  • 7:30 p.m. Thursdays-Saturdays, 4 p.m. Sundays, through April 18
  • The Actors Group
  • $10
  • 722-6941
  • www.taghawaii.org
The central characters neatly emerge during a first act that plays like lost notes from Tennessee Williams — a fairly suffocating Carrie, a hopelessly compassionate Ludie, and Jessie Mae, clanging like a rusty Southern belle. It represents excellent ensemble work and sensitive handling by director Sharon Adair.

Act Two is Carrie's escape by Greyhound bus, and introduces a parade of minor characters across TAG's tiny stage, beginning with a sweet young military bride (Rasa Fournier) and ending with a surprisingly sensitive country sheriff (Sam Polson). Act Three finds Carrie back in what's left of her home town, coming to terms with past and present and brokering a plan for what remains of her life.

It is fun watching Carrie blossom as she begins to put miles between herself and her life in Houston.

We also see small changes in Ludie and Jessie Mae. Ludie hints that he may finally have located his backbone. Jessie Mae is still largely a character we love to hate, but offers a momentary glimpse of a shy girl inside the shrew.

It's an ending that offers resolution and the promise of better things, leaving the audience warmed on a chilly winter evening.

Adair's creative set changes create remarkable visual variety. Remarkable enough that we tolerate being politely asked to step out of the theater to allow the transformations to happen.

Correction: The phone number for tickets to The Actors' Group was listed incorrectly in a previous version of this review.