The Trip to Bountiful-A Memory Play at California Conservatory Theatre

The Trip to Bountiful by Horton Foote is set in the 1950's and tells the story of an elderly woman, Carrie Watts (Phoebe Moyer) who wants to return home to the small town where she grew up, but is frequently stopped from leaving Houston, Texas by her daughter in-law, Jessie Mae (Sylvia Burboeck) and her overprotective son, Ludie (Steve Rhyne).  

Mrs. Watts is determined to outwit her son and bossy daughter in-law and set out to catch a train only to find the trains don't go to Bountiful anymore.  She eventually boards a bus to a town near her childhood home.  On the journey, she befriends Thelma (Siobhan Marie Doherty) who is traveling alone and reminisces about her younger years and grieves for her lost relatives.  Her son and daughter in-law eventually track Mrs. Watts down with the help of the local police force.  However, Mrs. Watts is determined. The local sheriff (Michael Fay) is moved by her yearning to visit her girlhood home and offers to drive her out to what remains of Bountiful.  The village is deserted and the few remaining houses are derelict.  Mrs. Watts is moved to tears as she surveys her father's land and the remain of the family home.  Her son eventually turns up and drives her back to Houston.   

Phoebe Moyer gives a moving performance as Carrie Watts, both heart-wrenchingly frail, yet cunningly willful.  Sylvia Burboeck as Jessie Mae has excellent playing energy and displays her complete self-absorption.  Steve Rhyne strikes the perfect note as the husband and son caught between two women.  Siobhan Marie Doherty is charmingly sympathetic as Thelma and Michael Fay does double duty as both the Sheriff and Ticket Man. He is ably supported by WM. Hunter as both Roy and another Ticket Man.  The speech of these characters reflects the southern Texas locale and is consistent.

Kimberly Richards is a wonderful director who establishes real connection in all of her cast. Equally impressive is the set design by Flash Bazbeaux. The opening scene is a multi-faceted set of both a living room and a bedroom.  All through the play there are wonderful projections on the back wall showing us detailed scenes of where we are and where we are going.  

Phoebe Moyer's remarkable performance is worth the price of admission. She portrays Carrie Watts as not some daffy forgetful old lady hankering for an unrecoverable past, but a canny survivor who is able to accept the compromise involved in fulfilling her wish to return to her past of past losses and happy memories.  

At any rate, you'll find this trip worth taking!  

The Trip to Bountiful continues Friday at 8 p.m., February 17 and 24; Saturday at 2 p.m., February 25; Saturday at 8 p.m. February 18 and 25 and Sunday at 2 p.m., February 19 and 26.  Performances are held at the California Conservatory Theatre of San Leandro, 999 East 14th St., San Leandro, CA.  Call for tickets at 510-632-8850 Tuesday-Friday, 12 p.m. to 4 p.m.

Flora Lynn Isaacson