“The Trip to Bountiful” is almost inexplicably magical.
All the accolades in the world couldnʼt, however, do justice to whatʼs going on at the Cutler Majestic Theatre, where this sweet, yet simple story has become a theatrical experience youʼll be talking about for a very long time.
Of course, it doesnʼt hurt that Cicely Tyson is reprising her Tony Award-winning role as Carrie Watts, the elderly woman who desperately wants to return to her hometown of Bountiful, TX one last time. The chance to watch the legendary actressʻ extraordinary performance is reason enough to see this show, but thatʼs only part of what makes it so special.
Vanessa Williams is sheer perfection as Carrieʼs yammering, self-absorbed daughter-in-law Jesse Mae. A lesser actor couldʼve easily become an also-ran in the presence of Miss Tyson, but the stage and screen veteran proves to be a formidable scene partner.
Blair Underwood finds surprising depth and vulnerability as the brow-beaten Ludie. Jurnee Smollett-Bell (of HBOʼs “True Blood”) enjoys some of the productionʼs loveliest moments with Tyson as the two characters share a seat in the back of a bus.
Jeff Cowie’s set perfectly captures the claustrophobia of the two-room apartment, the bus and the dingy station that displays a disturbing White Only Waiting Room sign that provides a powerful reminder of the multitude of struggles the Watts family faces. But it’s the decaying, ramshackle family home that proves to be the most beautiful of all. Carrie’s heartwarming recall of childhood memories (courtesy of a lump-in-your-throat moment by Miss Tyson) makes you think this weed-laden, abandoned shanty is as glorious as a palace.
Michael Wilson’s nearly-invisible direction is flawless, as this story gently takes you by the hand and leads you on a wonderful journey that’ll keep you grinning from ear-to-ear, even when your heart aches and you’re fighting back tears. Carrie Watts’ trip to Bountiful isn’t the only once-in-a-lifetime trip being taken at the Cutler Majestic.
If you go
“The Trip to Bountiful”
Through Dec. 7
Emerson/Cutler Majestic Theatre
219 Tremont St., Boston
$25 – $125