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A CurtainUp 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
Harriet Harris, Rebecca Brooksher and Hallie Foote (Photo by James Leynse)
The plays by Horton Foote, including my favorite The Trip to Bountiful, are often defined by how beautifully he addresses what may look on the surface as the sheer and utter banality of everyday reality. For that reason it is hard not to gush over The Roads to Home which may not be in the top tier of his canon but is, as are his best plays, framed by a engaging serenity and a gentle touch of sadness. And let's not forget the humor that also almost unwittingly defines the women who most often drive the plots.

It is the women, Southern to be sure to the core, with whom you will surely become engaged in these gracefully connected one act plays that were first introduced as a complete evening in 1982. This lovely production by Primary Stages now at the Cherry Lane Theater has a sublime cast under the fine direction of Michael Wilson, who guided to great success Foote's multi award-winning nine-hour epic The Orphans' Home Cycle (along with many more of Foote's plays.)

Any opportunity one gets to see Hallie Foote the supreme interpreter of so many of her father's characters, should be considered a treat. Although Hallie only holds forth for the entirety of the play's first half, she casts a spell that unquestionably rubs off on the other excellent actors. . . not that they need any boost to register their characters as memorable.

The play's opening segment entitled A Nightingale is set in Houston, Texas where Mabel (Foote) is enjoying a gossipy get-together with her friend and neighbor Vonnie Hayhurst (Harriet Harris) who has recently moved to Houston from her hometown Harrison (where Foote has set many of his plays and aligned in spirit to his own hometown of Wharton). Their trivia-filled gabfest soon becomes unexpectedly unsettling with the arrival of Annie (Rebecca Brooksher), whose mental stability is questionable if not bordering on lunacy, the result of witnessing the murder of her father. A kind of rescue is effected by her husband (Dan Bittner) who tries to stabilize Annie's increasingly neurotic behavior.

In The Dearest of Friends the plot thickens as Vonnie becomes aware that her husband Eddie (Matt Sullivan) is cheating on her and wants a divorce. So used to seeing Harris as a more bombastic character, I was overwhelmed by her stunningly poignant performance as the desperate housewife. Vonnie's confrontation with her husband isn't easy but it gets un-easier when Mabel steps into the fray and when disinterested husband Jack (Devon Abner) refuses to take sides. While there is a poignancy to the situation there is also humor in it as Mabel takes some bold steps to validate Eddie's indiscretion.

Spring Dance is the closer. It's set in the garden outside the mental facility where the delicately delusional Annie has been a resident for what turns out to be for a fluctuating number of years. Her disjointed awareness of events and relationships are woven into the three gentlemen (as winningly played by Bittner, Abner, and Sullivan) who respond kindly with their own and always gentlemanly distorted visions. It is in these moments that we can almost feel the presence of that other great Southern playwright Tennessee Williams as Annie grasps ever so tentatively on to the fluid reality of what she wants to remember as home.

Technical credits, including Jeff Cowie's settings, David C. Woolard's costumes, and David Lander's lighting, are first rate as they provide all the ancillary roads to home.

Curtainup previously reviewed two other productions of these interlinked plays in 2005: in DC and in 2006 in Los Angeles . For more about Horton Foote and links to other plays reviewed at Curtainup, see the Playwrights Album's Horton Foote Backgrounder.

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The Roads To Home
by Horton Foote
Directed by Michael Wilson
Cast: Devon Abner (Jack), Dan Bittner (Annie's husband Mr. Long), Rebecca Brooksher (Annie Gayle Long), Hallie Foote (Mabel Votaugh), Harriet Harris (Vonnie Hayhurst), Matt Sullivan (Eddie).
Scenic design: Jeff Cowie
Costume design: David C. Woolard
Lighting design: David Lander
Original music and sound design: John Gromada
Stage Manager: Robert Bennett
Running Time: 2 hrs. and 10 minutes with 1 intermission
Cast:.Primary Stages at the Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce St.
212-352-3101 Commerce Street
From 9/14/16; opening 10/05/16; closing 11/27/16
Wed-Sat 8; Sat 2; Sun 3 - see Website for other schedule details. Reviewed by Simon Saltzman based on 9/28/16 performance

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