The Trip to Bountiful is One Worth Taking at The Cleveland Play House
Last night, I visited The Cleveland Play House for opening night of The Trip to Bountiful. The Play House, one of Cleveland’s true gems, and the oldest professional theater in the United States, is important to arts and culture as everything happens under one roof. Unlike many theaters that merely host touring productions, the Play House produces plays, casts the actors, designs and sews the costumes, and creates the sound and lighting. And while I could continue on about my love for The Cleveland Play House, the topic at hand is to encourage you to travel to Cleveland to see The Trip to Bountiful, running through Feb. 27 in the Drury Theatre.
The Trip to Bountiful tells the story of Carrie Watts, an aging widow, who lives with her son and daughter-in-law, Ludie and Jessie Mae, in a three-room flat in Houston. While living under Jessie Mae’s watchful eye, Mrs. Watts dreams of one final visit to her girlhood house in Bountiful, hoping to regain strength and peace of mind upon her return. She secretly departs to the bus station and successfully hides from Ludie and Jessie Mae when they all arrive at the next station.
Having been alerted of her secret exit, the sheriff in the connecting town approaches Mrs. Watts. Before the sheriff takes her back to Houston, she convinces him to allow her to see the house in Bountiful and reconnect with her ancestral home.
When the dramatist Horton Foote first wrote The Trip to Bountiful as a movie for television in 1953, the world was a much different place than it is now. He also wrote the script for an entirely white cast. In The Cleveland Play House production, for the first time, The Trip to Bountiful stars an entire cast of African-American actors.
What is great about The Trip to Bountiful is that the play is a very well acted, easy to follow, fast-moving, believable slice of life. Whether starring black or white actors, the message of longing to go back home to connect with the land – back to Bountiful – back to basics, is universal.
Originally written for whites, the story did not change, and I appreciated to see a play with actors who look like me, but common stereotypes and dialects were not used. The Trip to Bountiful is not about race, nor should it be. The message of going home fits because we all really live the same lives. It’s an American story.