Founding Artistic Director Martin Benson is directing the work of an old friend as South Coast Repertory presents Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful,” now through Nov. 20 on the Segerstrom Stage.
Critics across America have lauded “Boutiful,” a play about Carrie Watts, an aging widow who wants to go home. Trapped in a tiny apartment in Houston, she yearns for Bountiful, the Gulf Coast town where she grew up and spent the best years of her life. And – latest pension check in hand – she’s determined to get there, come hell or high water.
The journey is filled with frequent humor and a tenderness that’s both heartbreaking and life affirming.
“Horton captures so beautifully what it means to need a sense of home,” says Benson, who knew the late Foote for years and directed the world premiere of the playwright’s “Getting Frankie Married – and Afterwards” as well as the West Coast premiere of “The Carpetbagger’s Children.”
Horton Foote had his first play, “Texas Town,” produced Off-Broadway in 1941. His plays include the Pulitzer Prize-winning “The Young Man from Atlanta” as well as “The Last of the Thorntons,” “Night Season,” “ The Roads to Home,” “The Habitation of Dragons,” “The Traveling Lady” and “Dividing the Estate.”
He received Academy Awards for his adapted screenplay of “To Kill a Mockingbird” and his original screenplay, “Tender Mercies.” For his 1997 television adaptation of William Faulkner’s “Old Man,” he won an Emmy Award for Outstanding Writing of a Miniseries. In 2000 he received the National Medal of Arts Award from President Clinton.
“He is, quite simply, an American treasure,” Benson says.
“The Trip to Bountiful” premiered as a television play on NBC in 1953, with Lillian Gish in the lead role, then moved to Broadway for a short run. A 1985 film version earned Geraldine Page the best actress Oscar for her portrayal of Carrie Watts, and got Foote another adapted screenplay nomination.
Lynn Milgrim plays feisty Carrie, with Daniel Reichert as her meek son, and Jennifer Lyon as her bossy daughter-in-law. Among the characters Carrie meets on her journey are two SCR Founding Artists, Richard Doyle and Hal Landon Jr., as a ticket agent and a sheriff, respectively.
Joining them are Lily Holleman as Thelma and Tom Shelton and Mark Coyan as ticket agents. Rounding out the ensemble are Sam Carter, Sharyn Case, Debbie Fry and Greg Ungar.
“The Trip to Bountiful” starst at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights, and 8 p.m. Thursday-Saturday nights, with matinees starting at 2:30 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. Tickets are $20-$68 and can be purchased online at scr.org, by phone at 714-708-5555, or by visiting the box office at 655 Town Center Drive in Costa Mesa. Post-show discussions with members of the cast will follow the performances of Nov. 2 and Nov. 8.