Theatre Review: The Trip to Bountiful

Another absolute treat in our local performing art production scene

Presented by: Red Phoenix Theatre

Reviewed: 23 May 2024

The Trip to Bountiful is a delicately written play about change, grieving the past, and saying goodbye to the old self. It was written by Pulitzer and Oscar winner Horton Foote and brought to life in a well-executed production directed by Libby Drake for Red Phoenix Theatre.

The story is set in 1950s Houston, opening in an apartment building where Carrie Watts (Sharon Malujlo) is awake in the middle of the night in a rocking chair staring out at the moon. Soon her son Ludie (Leighton Vogt) and daughter-in-law Jessie Mae (Krystal Cave) are awake too. The sense of character development and minor drama hits immediately with Carrie and Ludie reminiscing of older times back in the small farming town of Bountiful while Jessie Mae is focusing on gossip, controlling the space, and her next luxury purchase or beauty treatment.

Carrie’s longing to visit her hometown one last time drives her to hide her government pension cheque so she can spend it on the trip rather than another shopping spree for Jessie Mae. Craftiness and cunning get her out of the house and to the bus station where a friendly travelling companion (Thelma played by Laura Antoniazzi) is made and a contrast between new and old hopes appear through the coming bus ride.

The second half of the play shows the trip in friendly conversation, lost luggage and shows the sheer desperation of someone who hasn’t seen their home in twenty years and, now in ill health, wanting to see it one last time. On her way others such as ticketing agents (Brian Godfrey and Megan Dansie), station assistant Roy (Stuart Pearce), and the Sheriff (Ron Hoeing) must balance doing their job with what is right by the individual, such as blocking or assisting someone to get home again.

There was a gentleness and care to this local production. The base material for the play carries delicate themes around aging, loss, and domestic control with a spattering of comedy, predominantly through Jessie Mae’s behaviours. There was the occasional slip from Texan accents during the blunter comedic moments but the overall performance of the ensemble held to the series and at times intense undercurrents.

The three leads, Malujlo, Vogt, and Cave, were captivating to watch, in particular, the subtleness in their body language and tonal switches between each of the other two their character was interacting with. Malujlo demonstrated the full range of demeanours of Carrie and a highly relatable performance of the role for anyone who recognises the ability to code switch to find the path of least resistance in social settings.

The Trip to Bountiful has a short run over the next two weekends at the Holden Street Theatres and is another absolute treat in our local performing art production scene.

Reviewed by Alex Dunkin

Photo credit: Richard Parkhill

Venue: The Studio, Holden Street Theatres
Season: 23 May – 1 June 2024
Duration: 2hrs
Tickets: $25.20 (+ $3.30 fee)

Disclaimer: Brian Godfrey is a member of the Glam Adelaide arts review team.

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