Friday, May 14, 2010

The Trip to Bountiful - ACT

The Trip to Bountiful


May 7 - June 6, 2010

Tickets and Information

ACT’s production of Horton Foote’s The Trip to Bountiful is difficult to criticize. Nearly every aspect of the show is spot on. And yet somehow the production as a whole doesn’t feel quite right. It’s almost as if the show is happening in the wrong theatre. This isn’t a show that shows what ACT is all about.

Marianne Owen, Mary Kae Irvin, Paul Morgan Stetler.

Photo by Chris Bennion 2010.

Individually, each part of the show is commendable. The acting ensemble is packed full of Seattle’s best talent, and they rise to the occasion. Standouts are Mary Kae Irvin as Jessie Mae, who brings in a punch of life and energy just when the show needs it (several times), and the fresh-faced Jessica Martin as Thelma. But the true star of the show, deservedly so, is Marianne Owen as Carrie. Ms. Owen turns in a heart wrenchingly beautiful performance, so strong that at times that it almost feels like a one-woman show. It is a difficult journey that Carrie goes on throughout the performance, and we are blessed that Owen is willing to go on that journey with us night after night.

On the technical side, ACT’s usual prowess was in evidence. Christopher Walker’s sound design was sparse but fitting, and Matthew Smucker’s set was clever and effective. Costumes by Frances Kenny capture the period perfectly, especially those worn by Jessie Mae. And special kudos must be given to dialect coach Alyssa Keene; Marianne Owen in particular sounded like she’s lived in Texas her whole life.

So why, if all the individual elements were up to par, did the show not soar? The pace of the production is slow and mellow, but the staging is not to blame. The show’s energy is exactly right for the setting; it ebbs and flows gently like warm air on a lazy Texas afternoon. It is not so much that the energy of the show feels wrong, but that it feels out of place at ACT. This is an old-fashioned show, with a story that slowly unfolds over nearly two hours with no intermission. It doesn’t have the vibrant, youthful quality that has characterized ACT’s recent history.>>>This isn’t to say that the show shouldn’t be produced anymore. On the contrary, Horton Foote’s explorations of longing and the concept of home are gorgeous and timeless. But this American classic would feel more at home at a company like Intiman, or in a larger space where the epic nature of the story and the setting can wash over you. ACT’s theatres are better suited to the work they have been doing the past few years: intimate productions of dynamic contemporary plays. This production of The Trip to Bountiful, although well-done and enjoyable, unfortunately misses that mark.

Review by Patrick Lennon

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