Thursday, October 13, 2016

Off-Broadway Review—Horton Foote's “The Roads to Home”

The Roads to Home
Written by Horton Foote; directed by Michael Wilson
Performances through November 27, 2016
Primary Stages, Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street, New York, NY

Harriet Harris, Rebecca Brooksher and Hallie Foote in The Roads to Home (photo: Jamez Leynse)

In Horton Foote’s The Roads to Home, three interlinked one-act plays trod ground familiar to anyone who’s seen his work: there are fractured relationships and shifting family dynamics aplenty, along with the possibility (however slight) of starting anew. The trio of women at the heart of this play set in the 1920s—two middle-aged wives who are next-door neighbors, Mabel and Vonnie; and a younger woman from their Houston neighborhood, Annie—are quintessential Foote characters, with Mabel yearning for the sentimental comfort of hometown Harrison, Vonnie worried that her own husband is cheating on her, and younger Annie becoming dangerously unstable.

The first scene, A Nightingale, is set in Mabel’s house, as she and Vonnie await Annie, who visits every day rather than stay with her own children—her husband has to leave his office to retrieve her. Scene two, The Dearest of Friends, set six months later, finds Mabel comforting Vonnie, who believes her husband is having an affair. Both women’s spouses also appear, and Foote’s dialogue skirts farce as the disconnect between both couples is made apparent. Finally, the third scene, Spring Dance—set four years later in Austin—reintroduces Annie (she wasn’t in the second scene) at what turns out to be an asylum, where she was sent by her husband years earlier.

In his typically thoughtful manner, Foote paints brutally honest portraits of these women—and their men—which become quite moving by play’s end, especially when one realizes that the “home” of the title remains an unreachable destination, whichever road they find themselves on.

Michael Wilson directs sympathetically, and his cast is magisterial. Harriet Harris finds the humor beneath Vonnie’s heartbreak, Rebecca Brooksher makes Annie and her plight simply heartbreaking, and Devon Abner and Matt Sullivan provide needed laughs as Mabel and Vonnie’s slightly ridiculous husbands. And, as Mabel, Hallie Foote—the playwright’s daughter and most esteemed interpreter (she played Annie in a 1992 off-Broadway revival)—perfectly balances the playfulness, pathos and poetry in her father’s distinctive dialogue.

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