(Please click on the title to see the complete review.)
The concept of this revival of Horton Foote's classic play, now in previews at the Stephen Sondheim Theatre, is a puzzler. Although the four leading roles are played by black actors, the authority figures -- the ticket sellers and the sheriff -- are not. If the entire cast were black, that would make some sense to me. But the gimmicky casting raised distracting questions in my mind. Would the bus station and the buses in Texas have been integrated in 1953? Would blacks have owned farms and attended dances in Harrison, TX in the 1920's? Would a white sheriff have been so kind to a black woman? Wondering about these irrelevant matters might not have distracted me had other aspects of the production been more compelling. Even allowing for Foote's leisurely writing, the pace seemed sluggish. Cicely Tyson had some good moments, but occasionally swallowed her lines. Cuba Gooding Jr. was monotonously hangdog as her henpecked son and Vanessa Williams was relentlessly shrewish as his wife. Condola Rashad hit the right notes as Thelma and Tom Wopat was fine as the sheriff. Jeff Cowie's set for the family's cramped apartment didn't find a clever solution to differentiate the two rooms; his set for the final scene was quite lovely though. Van Broughton Ramsey's costumes seemed correct for the period. Michael Wilson, whose direction of other Foote plays has been so assured, seemed a bit off his stride here. Running time: 2 hours, 20 minutes including intermission.