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A CurtainUp Los Angeles Review
The Roads to Home

Teach me to pray. — Annie
You can't teach something like that, honey. That's between you and God. Ask God to teach you. He will.— Vonnie
I have. But he hasn't.—Annie

Brendan Bonner, Jenny Dare Paulin, Wendy Phillips and Laura Richardson (Photo: Anela Bence)

Horton Foote's plays are always set about a century ago in the Texas country he remembers from his boyhood or the stories told by family and friends on front porches in long summer evenings. The characters talk about the minutiae of their daily lives. Tragedy and passion take them unawares or, to paraphrase John Lennon, life happens while you're doing something else. The plays have always had a Chekhovian flavor and The Roads To Home, three one-acts shaped as one, is no exception.

In A Nightingale, beautiful young Annie Gayle Long (Jenny Dare Paulin) haunts the home of Mabel Votaugh (Wendy Phillips), who used to live in her hometown of Harrison, Texas. The year is 1924 and Mabel's husband Jack (Jim Haynie) finally insists Annie's husband Mr. Long (Brendan Bonner) take her away because he thinks she's crazy. "I didn't think she was crazy as much as upset," muses Mabel who shares her nostalgia for Harrison just as her neighbor Vonnie (Laura Richardson) is nostalgic for her home town of Monroe, LA. Young Mr. Long thinks his wife just wants to upset him but Annie is haunted by the traumatic murder of her father, a banker, who was shot before her eyes by his best friend on whom he had foreclosed. It's the first step on a road with no turning.

In "The Dearest of Friends" Mabel tries to support Vonnie ( whose husband Eddie (John Bozeman) wants a divorce. Spring Dance, set four years later, finds Annie in the state insane asylum with two young men who are old friends from Harrison, the mute Dave (Alex Kreuzwieser) and the handsome Greene (John Gardner). Their discussions are cyclical. They tell Cecil (John Blevins) that they are going home tomorrow or returned from a visit yesterday. He tells them first that he's getting a divorce, second that he's a widower. The inmates' sad fantasies circle hopelessly, only removed by degree from the recurring fantasies of those in the outside world.

The triple bill is at 2nd Story Theatre's elegant Lost Studio. Scott Paulin's direction does justice to Foote's depiction of humanity in its everyday garb that incorporates the tragedies that only mortal bonds make bearable.

Wendy Phillips anchors the first two acts with a solid warm portrayal of Mabel, She's complemented by Laura Richardson as a slightly over-the-top Vonnie. She's fluttery, shallow but she faces her husband finally with a strength and dignity that we sense will sustain her. Jim Haynie brings a sly humor to the almost inarticulate Jack. Jenny Dare Paulin is a beautiful delicate Annie with a sweet singing voice and a credible interpretation that works, although it leaves us wanting more facets.

A chamber orchestra, headed by Jason Payne on vocals, sets the mood with "Swanee River" and other songs that evoke a time and place in a play that reinforces the author's instinct for the timeless.

Editor's Note: For more about Horton Foote and links to other play reviews, check out our Horton Foote Backgrounder

Playwright: Horton Foote
Director: Scott Paulin
Cast: Wendy Phillips (Mabel Votaugh), Laura Richardson (Vonnie Hayhurst), Jennyh Dare Paulin (Annie Gayle Long), Brendan Bonner (Mr. Long), Jim Hayne (Jack Vortaugh), John Bozeman (Eddie Hayhurst), Alex Kreuzwieser (Dave Dushon), John Blevins (Cecil Henry), John Gardner (Greene Hamilton). Orchestra: Deborah Vukovitz, Violin; Francis Soriano, Accordian; Jason Payne, Guitar & Vocals.
Set Design: Jeffrey Whitman
Lighting Design: Derrick McDaniel
Wardrobe Consultant: Rosemary Schaub
Running Time: Two hours with one intermission
Running Dates: November 17 to December 17, 2006.
Where: The Lost Studio Theatre, 130 S. La Brea, Hollywood. (310) 600-3682.
Reviewed by Laura Hitchcock on November 24, 2006.

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