Saturday, February 27, 2016


Rebecca Rowland Hines ("Carrie"), Blake Isaac ("Ludie"), and Jayne Furlong ("Jessie Mae"). Photo by Al Stewart.

By Tina Arth

I am consistently amazed at the diversity of offerings from local community theatres. Mask & Mirror’s latest, The Trip to Bountiful, is a radical shift from the group’s frequent feel-good fare, and it provides a depth of theatrical experience one hardly expects to find on a stage in a church auditorium. Director Joe Silva had an ambitious vision for the show, and he has attracted and directed a cast that rises to the task.

Author Horton Foote’s powerful play is set in the 1950s, and tells the story of elderly Carrie Watts, who has spent the last twenty years living in a cramped Houston walk-up with her spineless son Ludie and despicably narcissistic  daughter-in-law Jessie Mae. Miserable, trapped by age and circumstances in a world she hates, Carrie wants nothing more than to return to Bountiful, her tiny hometown on the Texas Gulf. Carrie hides her pension check and, with the help of a few sympathetic folks, makes her way back to Bountiful, only to find that her hometown and best friend have both died. A worried Ludie and furious Jessie Mae borrow a car, pick her up, and take her back to Houston – but a story that should be depressing turns heartwarming as Carrie comes to terms with her reality, Ludie finds the strength to support his mom, and Jessie Mae, stunned by Carrie’s warmth and forgiveness, unbends a little.

Rebecca Rowland Hines ("Carrie") in the family graveyard.
The show demands strong female leads, and both Rebecca Rowland Hines (“Carrie”) and Jayne Furlong (“Jessie Mae”) really deliver. The intimacy of the small theater allows the audience to absorb every nuance of Hines’ character as she shifts from wistful to sly, from angry to anguished, from obsequious to defiant, and ultimately from tragic to strangely fulfilled. Hines holds nothing back, and her performance in the family graveyard is shattering in its intensity. Furlong manages to endow the potentially one-dimensional Jessie Mae with enough depth that the audience, while despising her shrill dominance (these days, we call it “elder abuse’), still finds some empathy with the emptiness of her life. Furlong’s subtle double takes in the final scene brilliantly convey the possibility that her character will find some measure of happiness.

Blake Isaac (“Ludie”) deftly conveys his character’s dilemma - a man who hates confrontation trapped between the two women who hate each other as much as he loves each of them. With brief flashes of fire and some gentle interactions with his mother, he prepares the audience for the backbone and nascent hopefulness he displays in the final scene.

Of the five supporting roles (all people who give us glimpses of a kinder, gentler world outside the Houston apartment) Rebecca Raccanelli (“Thelma”) demands mention - she brings a poignant warmth that contrasts beautifully with Furlong’s brittle shell.

The set design (led by Woody Woodbury) is clever, with elaborate detail in the key first and last scenes and  minimalist sketches in between, keeping scene changes quick. The apartment contains some beautiful pieces that will be auctioned off at the show’s conclusion – unfortunately, not the eye-catching bench at the bus station! Viola Pruitt’s costumes are, as always, so period perfect that they don’t just support the production, they enhance it.

The Trip to Bountiful has a four-week run, so there’s no excuse for missing this nostalgic look at a small-town past that tells larger truths about love, family, and home.

Mask & Mirror’s The Trip to Bountiful is playing through Sunday, March 20th at “The Stage” at Calvin Church, 10445 Canterbury Lane, Tigard. Performances are at 7:30 p.m. Saturday and 2:00 p.m. Sunday. There are no Friday night performances.

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