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The Trip to Bountiful

a Drama
by Horton Foote

COMPANY : Pumphouse Players [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Legion Theatre
ID# 3749

SHOWING : July 30, 2010 - August 14, 2010



This is the poignant story of Mrs. Watts, an aging widow living with her son and daughter-in-law in a three-room flat in Houston, Texas. Fearing that her presence may be an imposition on others, and chafing under the watchful eye of her daughter-in-law, Mrs. Watts imagines that if she can get away and return to her old home in the town of Bountiful, she is sure to regain her strength, dignity and peace of mind.

Director Dave Boggess
Costume Designer Sandy Cunningham
Lighting Designer Laura Demain
Sound/Tech Barry KING
Asst. Director Pam Wilson
2nd Houston Ticket Man Dave Boggess
Jessie Mae Carolyn Choe
Roy Michael Clark
Sheriff Ron Connell
Ludie Brad Corbin
Carrie Watts Sandy Cunningham
Thelma Aliya Hutcheson
Houston Ticket Man Nolan Smith
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Home Decay
by Dedalus
Thursday, August 12, 2010
Horton Foote’s “The Trip to Bountiful” is beautiful little play being give a fair to pretty-durn-good production by Cartersville’s Pumphouse Players.

Originally written as a television play for silent film actress Lillian Gish, it was later adapted for a short stage run followed decades later (1985) with a lovely film version, for which Geraldine Page won a well-deserved Academy Award. It’s the story of elderly Mrs. Carrie Watts, a woman in her twilight years, sharing a too-small Houston apartment with her overbearing daughter-in-law and henpecked son. Her dream is to “run away” to her childhood home in small-town Bountiful, Texas. She manages to elude her family and make the trip, only to be tracked down and taken back. But, along the way, she finds her quest for home arouses the best instincts in perfect strangers, and she finds that the idealized homestead itself has fallen into abandonment and decay.

Horton Foote’s body work is a marvel of understatement. His characters usually have small dreams, small goals, and small actions. The drama in his work comes from how his characters bring lifetimes of experience, good and bad, into the challenges the present always seems to bring. He is most famous for the screenplay for “Tender Mercies” and the film adaptation of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” However, I think his best work is a nine-play series called the “Orphan’s Home Cycle,” which follows one family through several generations of small town Texas life. In this saga more than any other work, he shows how small choices and mistakes can have devastating repercussions years, even generations later. Similarly, “The Trip to Bountiful” is a compendium of small choices, small actions, all of which take on a greater importance than expected.

Here, the cast, for the most part, hits every note right, delving deeply into the characters, ensuring all the beautiful unsaid stuff comes across loud and clear (usually). If Sandy Cunningham’s Mrs. Watts occasionally comes across as flat and just-off-book lite, well, she has large acting shoes to fill, and memories of Geraldine Page’s sublime performance sets a bar that is understandably a mite high for most actresses. Still, Ms. Cunningham has single moments that shout out with beauty – gratitude at a stranger’s unexpected kindness, disappointment at her son Ludie’s ineffectual marriage, suppressed anger at daughter-in-law Jessie Mae’s browbeating, and, most especially, her final disappointment when she realizes that idealized dreams of a home that no longer exists (or perhaps never did exist in the rosy hues she longs for) can unfairly overpower the tender realities of her present home, no matter how strained and unremarkable.

I also liked how Carolyn Choe gave Jessie Mae a few more layers than the standard harridan we may be used to in this role. The last scene, in particular, suggests a suppressed kindness that hints her waspishness may be based on feelings a bit more tender than spite. Brad Corbin does a nice job as Ludie, towering physically over his female co-stars, but seemingly smaller and nature. Yet, when he does show moments of anger, or strength (admittedly few and seldom), he seems real and not contrived.

I also must make mention of a very fine job by Mallory Grantham, who had to step into the smaller role of Thelma less than a week ago. Hiding her lines in a magazine, I never would have guessed they were there if director Dave Bogess hadn’t alerted us to that fact in his pre-show curtain speech. Natural and pleasant, she never gave the sense she was “reading” her lines. Other small roles were filled nicely by Ron Connell, Michael Clark, Nolan Smith and Michael Ryan.

On a design level, this was a bear of a production for a small playing space with no “backstage” storage – four complete sets and a fifth that a variation of another, most of them in the second act. Still, the changes were well-choreographed and quick enough. I would have wished the producers use the mood-setting projection screen to “cover” a few more than they did, or add some music to help with the transitions, but still, seeing the radical changes that occur made me fully appreciate the effort that had to have gone into planning and rehearsing them.

So, I have to confess a preconceived liking for this script, based on fond memories of the movie, and of reading a wide sample of Mr. Foote’s other work for the stage. I also have to confess some bias, as I am friends with two in the cast, and will be part of the September Pumphouse production. Still, this is a play that makes its points gently, quietly, and with tenderness. It is a character/mood piece in which the characters came vividly alive for me, and in which the mood begins with the softly moonlit opening and continues through the final elegiac reconciliation and resignation of dreams lost to time and decay.

“The Trip to Bountiful” is small in scope, but bountiful in ambition and effect. It was a trip I was glad to make, and hope to make again.

-- Brad Rudy (

Bountiful falls a little short
by voyager
Wednesday, August 4, 2010
Many things are lacking in this production. Mostly the performances.

Sandy Cunningham as Mrs. Watts seemed to be trying but comes off as maybe a little more confused and forgetful as the character she portrays. Brad Corbin as Ludie does an okay job, but seems stiff and lacks some most needed depth. Then we have Carolyn Choe as Jessie Mae. She seems to dominate the stage for the better part that she is on it, which is fine but she's not the star and the focus. This may have been the fault of the director. Who knows? As for everyone else the southern accents come and go or are just not there at all.

Now for the good parts. The set was really well done. We go from a home setting to 2 different bus stops and then the end outside in Bountiful at an old shack complete with birdsongs. The set changes were fluid and smooth. Another plus was Aliya Hutcheson a small jewel on the stage. She was charming and totally believable as the young Thelma. She appeared to be plucked right from the 1950's.

I've attended several productions at the Pump House and enjoyed many of them. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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