It’s the spring of 1953. A widow named Carrie Watts dwells reluctantly in a nondescript Houston flat with her son, Ludie, and his unpleasant wife, Jessie Mae.
Carrie spends her time quarreling with Jessie Mae, who doesn’t care for her mother-in-law, and mooning over her hometown. It’s a coastal Texas village called Bountiful. After several failed attempts over 20 years, Carrie successfully breaks for the bus station and heads for the idyllic hamlet of her memory — only to discover that Bountiful ain’t bountiful anymore. In fact, it’s a ramshackle ghost town.
Carrie is forced to come to terms with reality — and with Jessie Mae. She handles it rather well.
That’s the skeleton of “The Trip to Bountiful,” a poignant drama by the late Horton Foote. It’s onstage at Attic Productions’ D. Geraldine Lawson Performing Arts Center in Fincastle.
The show first appeared on NBC in 1953, a time when the young medium of network television still broadcast serious original drama. Prominent stage and screen incarnations — perhaps most notably an Oscar-winning 1985 movie starring Geraldine Page — have followed, and today the show lives on in amateur theater productions such as Attic’s.
Nancy Lawrence leads the cast as Carrie in the Attic version, which is directed by Cathy Henderson. Supporting her as Ludie and Jessie Mae are Kevin Bertholf and Peggey Rowland, respectively. Along with Sarah Jane Harlow, who is notably affecting as a fellow bus passenger who befriends Carrie, the supporting players are Steven Aaron, Gene Marrano, Linnie Gregory, Mark Moomaw, Suzanne Cronise, Caroline Hanna and Gabriella Tickner.
Lawrence is a dependable regular in the company’s shows, and her opening-night performance was, well, dependable. In fact, the opening-night performance was a bit lacking overall. It suffered from laggard pacing and acting that rarely captured the true damaging potential of family tension and fractured memories. One can hope for improvement as the run continues.