Review: The Trip to Bountiful (Alumnae Theatre)

The Trip to Bountiful is a touching tale of one woman’s devotion to her roots

The Trip to BountifulWritten by Horton Foote, The Trip to Bountiful at Toronto’s Alumnae Theatre evokes differences between city life and country life and between the needs of the elderly and the younger generation. But the heart of the story goes much deeper than that as it expresses one woman’s unshakable longing for her roots.

Mama Watts (Jane Hunter) is an elderly woman who’s cooped up in a Houston, Texas apartment at a busy street corner. She’s living with her son Ludie (Jamie Johnson) and daughter-in-law Jessie Mae (Kim Croscup). Mama Watts yearns to return to her hometown Bountiful (also called a “swamp” by Jessie Mae) and this desire is all-encompassing. She hasn’t been home for 30 years.

The play is a low-tech, uncomplicated production that’s in sync with the down-to-earth nature of the story and of its main character Mama Watts. There are no distracting special effects but instead simple props, decor and costumes.

The images projected on the stage’s backdrop are probably the most high-tech element. They’re quite effective in creating an urban versus rural ambiance. The black and white images along with the street noises contrast with the greenery and bird calls of the countryside. Bravo to set designer Brenda Darling and sound designer Samantha DeVries for creating a refreshing, oxygen-filled moment when we finally are introduced to Bountiful.

The acting is superb in The Trip to Bountiful. Kim Croscup with her bouncy curls and plaintive voice gives a solid performance as a spoiled city girl with her own disappointments in life. Jamie Johnson as the worn-out man torn between his mother and wife shines when talking about the pain of being childless. Priscilla Asiffo as Thelma the bus passenger brings calm and warmth to the play.

While all the actors are excellent, the star performer is Jane Hunter as Mama Watts. She moves around the apartment exactly like one of my relatives – with small, quick steps and poor posture as if afraid to take up too much space.

I very much enjoyed The Trip to Bountiful and its numerous unrealized dreams, and I spent most of the play crossing my fingers for Mama Watts whose peace, dignity and sense of belonging were attached to Bountiful. The two and half hours went by quickly, thanks to the poignant, well-performed story.

Details

    •  The Trip to Bountiful is playing until February 1, 2020 at Alumnae Theatre (70 Berkeley Street)
    • Shows run Wednesday to Saturday at 8 PM and on Sunday at 2 PM
    • Tickets are $25 regular price; Sunday at 2 PM is PWYC; Wednesday is 2-for-1
    • Tickets are available online, by phone at 416-364-4170, or in person at the box office
    • Run Time: Show is approximately 2.5 hours long with one intermission

Photo of Jane Hunter and Jamie Johnson provided by the company