Friday, June 16, 2017

The Traveling Lady


This revival of Horton Foote’s 1954 play now in previews at the Cherry Lane Theatre does not make a strong case for the play. As usual for Foote, the setting is the mythical Harrison, Texas in the 1950’s. Georgette Thomas (Jean Lichty), an attractive young woman, arrives in town with her five-year old daughter Margaret Rose (Korinne Tetlow), looking for a cheap house to rent. She is directed to Judge Robedaux (George Morfogen) who plies her for personal information. It turns out that her husband Henry (PJ Sosko) has been in prison for six years and has never met his daughter. She expects him to arrive in Harrison, where he grew up, within the week. She is startled to find out that Henry has already been in town for a month and is living with and working for Mrs. Tillman (Jill Tanner), a do-gooder who fancies herself able to cure alcoholics. While the neighbors try to locate her husband, Georgette and her daughter rest at the home of Clara Breedlove (Angelina Fiordellisi) and her brother Slim Murray (Larry Bull), a young widower. We learn that Siim’s allegedly beloved wife actually abandoned him and wouldn’t even let him visit her as she lay dying. We also meet Clara’s next-door neighbors, the crusty old Mrs. Mavis (Lynne Cohen) who wanders off every chance she gets and her hapless daughter Sitter (Karen Ziemba) [Really, where do Southerners come up with these awful names for their daughters!]. Will Henry stay sober? Will Margaret Rose get to meet her father? Will Slim find true love? Will Mrs. Tillman keep her faith in human nature? Will Georgette catch a break? I was not at the edge of my seat waiting to find out. While the ensemble is mostly good, Austin Pendleton’s  direction is flat. The set by Harry Feiner and costumes by Theresa Squire are adequate. The need for most of the actors to enter via the theater’s center aisle and up a few stairs grows tiresome quickly. While it’s always a pleasure to see Karen Ziemba, she is wasted in a nondescript supporting role. In the short-lived 1954 Broadway production, the title role was played by Kim Stanley. Perhaps someone with her charisma is needed to breathe life into this play. Unless you are a fanatic Foote fan, you can skip this one. Running time: one hour 40 minutes, no intermission

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