By Holli Harms
My daughter’s school has a “Poem In Your Pocket” day every spring where everyone brings in a poem they’ve written and during the course of the day when they run into another student or teacher in the halls they stop and read their poems to one another.
Horton Foote’s The Roads To Home is a poem for all of us to keep in our pockets and carry with us.
The play is a time-line in three acts set in the 1920’s. The first two acts, A Nightingale and The Dearest of Friends, are set in Houston TX, , both dominated by neighbors and friends Mabel Votaugh (Hallie Foote) and Vonnie Hayhurst (Harriet Harris), and the final act, Spring Dance, 165 miles further west in Austin.
In the first act, A Nightingale, Vonnie has been away for six weeks visiting family in Louisiana and has stopped by for a visit with Mabel to tell her all about her trip, but what she does not know is that while she was gone Mabel started getting a daily visit from a young woman, Annie Gayle Long (Rebecca Brooksher) who grew up in Mabel’s home town Harrison, Texas. Annie has been coming by every day and staying all day with Mabel, both women finding comfort in remembrances of their home town and the people who populate it. Annie’s dad was killed in Harrison, murdered in front of her by his best friend. This event she has never let go of and after the birth of her second child it has become a dominating presence in her life. She suffers from “nerves” and it is clear at some point that her nerves will get the best of her.
I’m from the south and the opening of the play, with Vonnie and Mabel exchanging stories about their home towns brought back memories of my Mama and her friends visiting. Good memories of those voices falling and growing, the stories taking a life of their own. Mr. Foote has a deft hand at choreographing stories exactly as any southern woman would tell them. It’s not a straight path to a finish, but a story that meanders off the road finding joys in descriptions, comparisons, and total none sequiturs. Hallie Foote and Harriet Harris are a perfect pitch together. Rebecca Brooksher’s portrayal of Annie is a gentle portrait of a young woman’s inability to hang on to sanity. She is trying, but it is slipping and she knows it, but she must keep trying because if she doesn’t her husband Mr. Long (Dan Bittner) is going to commit her to the Asylum in Austin.
In the second act, The Dearest Of Friends, it is six months later and Vonnie’s husband we find out is having an affair. She and Mabel along with the help of Mabel’s husband Jack (Devon Abner), try to work out exactly what is happening. Will her husband, Eddie (Matt Sullivan) come to his senses or will they divorce? The men in the first two acts have little to do but support the women. It is in the final act of the evening, Spring Dance, where they are double cast, they get to have a little fun, albeit for one that means not a word of dialogue.
Spring Dance occurs four years later in the insane asylum in Austin. A real place known for its beautiful grounds and dances. All that beauty and dancing, it was thought, would help the patients. It is the night of the spring dance and we find Annie and four male friends who, we believe, are committed to the asylum for the duration of their lives. Here is where Horton Foote takes us on a verbal roller coaster with dialogue that flips and flops as the characters try to understand what is really going on with themselves, leaving the audience doing the same flipping and flopping. They remember their past, their home towns and all the people who touched their lives, but have little relocation of their time spent in the asylum – their day to day existence. The play is all about those remembrances. The past occupying each of the characters lives much more then the present. Home is where they came from not where they are.
The Roads to Home – by Horton Foote, Directed by Michael Wilson
With: Hallie Foote, Harriet Harris, Rebecca Brooksher, Matt Sullivan, Devon Abner, Dan Bittner
Scenic Design by Jeff Cowie, Costume Design by David C. Woolard, Lighting Design by David Lander, Original Music and Sound Design by John Gromada, Casting by Stephanie Klapper Casting.
presented by Primary Stages in association with Catherine Adler and Jamie deRoy; Wed-Sat 8; Sat 2; Sun 3
No performance:November 24 at 8pm; RUNNING TIME: 2 hours, including a 15-minute intermission
SHOW LOCATION Cherry Lane Theatre, 38 Commerce Street through November 27.