For those who have seen Cicely Tyson on Broadway as Carrie Watts in Horton Foote’s “Trip To Bountiful,” her recent Tony win is a no brainer. At 88 years-old Tyson delivers a touching and hysterically comical portrait of a woman, who years for her home and she’s nearing the end of her life. Watts longs for “Bountiful” the fictional name of the small town in Texas where she grew up.
Carrie lives with her son (Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his selfish and callous wife Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams). Despite her son’s watchful care, Carrie wants nothing more than to see her birthplace before she dies. We learn that she’s already tried to run off to Bountiful, much to her son and wife’s dismay (his–a genuine concern for her well being; hers–a desire to collect on her pension check). But despite her promises that she has given up her longing for Bountiful, Carrie is secretly plotting to make her escape.
When the opportunity is right Carrie’s sneaks off to the bus station to make her trip to Bountiful. The town is all but forgotten completely as no bus stops there anymore and it’s not even on the route map. Undeterred Carrie buys a ticket to the closest stop and makes the acquaintance of a young Army bride named Thema (played by Condola Rashad) who is headed in the direction.
Through a series of mishaps and mistakes Carrie finds her trip to Bountiful adventurous and almost unfulfilled, but the beauty is this Broadway show lives almost solely in the genius of Ms. Tyson’s performance. Vanessa Williams delivers a convingly bitchy portrayal of Jessie Mae that makes you almost hate her except you can’t stop looking at how beautiful she is. And Cuba Gooding, Jr falls flat, unable to capture the complex inner struggle he feels between being a mama’s boy and Jessie Mae’s whipping boy.
But Ms. Tyson, through her comedic timing, impassioned delivery of old Church hymns and sympathetic understanding of Thelma’s love for her husband through her own unrequited quest for romance, Ms. Tyson keeps you singularly focused on her, awaiting her next move, line and expression.
“Trip to Bountiful” took me on a roller coaster of emotions, but left me mostly in amazement of what life looks like on a woman who has spent her time doing what she was put on earth to do. She alone, is a must-see.
Don’t miss TVOne’s exclusive interview with Cicely Tyson and Cathy Hughes tonight at 8 p.m.
Check Out This Gallery Of Stars Enjoying “The Trip To Bountiful”: