Although actresses often complain that movies don’t have good roles for older women, the same is not true for the theater season this year as evidenced by Holland Taylor as in Ann and Cicely Tyson in the all-Black revival of A Trip to Bountiful.
Trip to Bountiful
It isn’t easy growing old, as Mrs. Carrie Watts (Tyson) knows. She no longer has her independence and she and her pension check are forced to reside with her son, Ludie (played by Cuba Gooding), and his domineering wife, Jessie Mae (Vanessa Wiliams).
Carrie yearns to return to Bountiful, her girlhood home, and repeatedly has tried to run away. In his warm and intimate play, A Trip To Bountiful, playwright Horton Foote tells of the importance of family and history. Carrie sneaks out when her daughter-in-law is at the drugstore drinking Cokes with her friend, and she hides from Ludie at the bus station, befriending a young Army wife traveling home to stay with her parents (Condola Rashad). In her first role on Broadway since 1983, 84-year-old Tyson is remarkable as the elderly Carrie. She is bent with age and depression when she lives with her son and his bossy wife. Jessie Mae talks down to her, as if she’s a child and lectures her about ‘rushing’ through the house. As Carrie leaves the house on the way to have her adventure, Tyson straightens out. She becomes vibrant and cheerful. Although Jessie Mae chastises her for singing hymns, the audience connects immediately, with many humming along. Tyson gestured to the audience, encouraging it join in with her. Even if we didn’t know the words, we smiled in appreciation.
Playing her typical ‘heavy” character, Vanessa Williams is the indolent wife who bosses Carrie around. Even though she has a line about her looks, Williams is distractingly pretty for the role. It’s hard not to watch her while she’s onstage, even when she isn’t the focal character. Gooding is too meek and almost infantile as Ludie. In the final scene, when he bonds with his mother and stands up to his wife, he’s still too ineffectual and wimpy. As the soldier’s wife, Condola Rashad brings intelligence and warmth to her small role