An all-star cast alone would warrant a trip to the theatre. Cicely Tyson’s performance in The Trip To Bountiful is even a better reason and proves that talent doesn’t fail with age nor keep from being nominated for a Tony award.
Carrie Watts (Cicely Tyson) is living her later years, presently 1953, trapped in two room apartment in Houston, Texas with a controlling daughter-in-law, Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams) and a hen-pecked son, Ludie (Cuba Gooding, Jr.). Her only “buck list” wish before she dies? A revisit to Bountiful, a small Texas town of her youth are where her son grew up of which she still refers to as "home."
Problem? Ludie is too concerned about mom’s health to allow her to bus it alone and her petty daughter-in-law insists they don't have money to squander on the tickets. Escape attempts each month seem to coincide with the arrival of Mrs. Watts' Social Security check.
In the meantime, Ludie is looking to get a raise and Jessie Mae wants to “go out” for an evening or two each week as well as get her hair done.
The scene changes as Carrie slips out to make her way to the bus station, bringing along her social security check that she had hidden from Jessie Mae. There doesn’t seem to be a bus going to Bountiful and rumor is it that most of the town is gone. One of the passengers waiting in the “colored” waiting area is Thelma (Condola Rashad). Carrie sits next to her telling her woes and who she expects to visit. However, Ludie and Jessie Mae show up as she exits to where the bus is situated. Thelma hearing them arguing about Carrie, keeps her mouth shut…for awhile.
We then see Carrie and Thelma sitting next to each other on the bus and sharing information about their lives. As Carrie then waits at the bus depot in Harrison to get to Bountiful she tries to cheer up Thelma by singing a Christian hymn of which it appears that Tyson gets the audience to join in.
A sheriff (Tom Wopak) shows up as Ludie has requested. Carrie begs him to first take her to Bountiful, since the only money she now has on her is her social security check which nobody will cash. She does convince him as she arrives to see her old house boarded up. While the sheriff waits for her, Ludie and Jessie Mae arrive and I’ll leave the ending to when you see the play.
The Trip To Bountiful is playing at the newly renovated Stephen Sondheim Theatre, formerly the Henry Miller Theatre and where in 1953, the original production took place. Most interesting about this theatre is that the mezzanine is located on the main level and the close orchestra seats are two levels down. Yes, there is an elevator.