(Michael Feingold’s article appeared in The Village Voice, 5/1.)
Three obstinate females—one fictional and two historical—dominated my theatergoing last week. Tenacious women make great showy roles for leading actresses, and also seem to have a stimulating effect on male writers: Medea and Tosca, Mistress Quickly and Mrs. Warren, Dolly Levi and Maggie the Cat all sprang from masculine imaginations. In plays by women, who see the female mind from inside, the woman at the center is more often vacillating or self-doubting. Men, stuck with the external gaze, focus on the determination that masks the doubt.
Mrs. Carrie Watts (Cicely Tyson), the heroine of Horton Foote's 1953 play The Trip to Bountiful (Sondheim Theatre), has flickering doubts, but conquers them on her way to her simple goal. Raised and married in a tiny Texas town called Bountiful, she's been trapped for over a dozen years in a claustrophobic flat in noisy Houston, with her son, Ludie (Cuba Gooding Jr.), and daughter-in-law, Jessie Mae (Vanessa Williams). Getting back to Bountiful, for reasons even she doesn't fully understand, is her one desire.