George Morfogen Jean Lichty Korinne Tetlow and Larry Bull
By Arney Rosenblat
The Traveling Lady by Horton Foote is a poignant
story of longing and remorse set in a rural 1950's Texas town. On the
surface, the lives portrayed may appear remote to the in-your-face tell-all
lifestyle of the typical Manhattan dweller, till you get to know these reserved
but real people with real problems who have their own special dreams.
An early play by one of America’s most prolific writers, it quietly
draws you into the lives of its characters thanks in large part to the
sensitive and understated directing of Austin Pendleton and the well integrated
cast which makes Harrison, Texas, the frequent center of Mr. Foote's
semi-fictional universe, come alive as a full fledged community.
The excellent revival is mounted by La Femme Theatre Productions
whose credo is "dedicated to the exploration and celebration of the
universal female experience." Executive Director Jean Lichty plays
the title role of Georgette Thomas and does so with compelling grace.
The Traveling Lady tells the story of Georgette
Thomas who comes to Harrison, Texas with her young daughter, Margaret Rose, an
adorable Korinne Tetlow, to await the expected release of her husband, Henry,
from prison. Seeking a place to stay while she waits, Georgette ends up
in the yard of Clara Breedlove, whose warm and winning ways, beautifully
conveyed by Angelina Fiordellisi, have made her front porch the gathering spot
of the community, a community which decides to take the lost Georgette and her
daughter under their wing. What the community knows and Georgette doesn't
is that Henry is already out of jail and working for Mrs. Tillman, an effective
Jill Tanner, who is determined to complete his rehabilitation.
Jean Lichty, PJ Sosko and Larry Bull.
Henry, played convincingly by PJ Sosko, is an aspiring country
singer whose abusive childhood, alcoholism and temperament have left him a
broken man, full of regrets who is unable to move forward with his life.
Ironically, only when he's drunk can Henry express the destructive feelings
that haunt him and will likely prevent him from ever making a home together
with Georgette and his daughter. One of the most painfully touching scenes
in the play is when Henry and Georgette finally meet again and all he is able
to do is shake her hand.
Among the remaining cast of characters that populate Clara
Breedlove's front porch and Georgette's evolving future are Mrs. Mavis, an
elderly neighbor whose faculties are slipping and whose sharp performance by
Lynn Cohen bring humor, dignity and compassion to her character. She is
watched over by her frequently frustrated daughter, Sitter Mavis, perfectly
played by Annette O'Toole.
Lynn Cohen, Jean Lichty, Larry Bull and Karen
Ziemba photos by Carol Rosegg.
It is Judge Robedaux played sympathetically by George Morfogen who
has houses to rent that sets the traditional and touching tone of the play but
it is Slim Murray, Clara's widower brother who offers a possible stable and
positive future for Georgette and her daughter, when his admiration for
Georgette turns to love.
As with Georgette, love has not been kind to the big-hearted Slim
Murray, who Larry Bull makes you instantly embrace
"Six months after we were married, Laura left me...she never
called or wrote...Even when she was so sick...and I came back here to be near
her...everybody..thought I was sitting by her bedside..I wasn't . I was
sitting outside the door to her bedroom...the night before she died...she asked
me to forgive her and I said there was nothing to forgive...Since her death I
used to..sit by myself...wondering what went wrong...then it came to me...that
right or wrong, I did the best I could."
To support the realistic story, set and lighting designer Harry
Feiner creates a correspondingly realistic and inviting backdrop while Amy
Stoller ensures everyone sounds like Texans and not caricatures of Texans.
Though the production of The Traveling Lady is first rate,
the play itself is not one of Mr. Foote's finest as it was written long before
he developed into the master playwright he would ultimately become with such
gems as The Orphan's Home Cycle, The Young Man From Atlanta, Dividing the
Estate and Tender Mercies.
Off Broadway Play, Drama
One Hour and 45 minutes
Cherry Lane Theatre
38 Commerce Street
Closing Date: July 30