Cicely Tyson Will Transport You To Your Own Bountiful As Well

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Trip to Bountiful” reminds us of an age-old lesson that home is where the heart is. From a bustling city Mrs. Carrie Watts, played by Cicely Tyson, who deservedly won a TONY, yearned to return to her town of Bountiful.

Jessie Mae Watts, played by Vanessa Williams, is the spoiled daughter-in-law. As an audience member one feels a huge sense of dislike for Jessie Mae. Jessie Mae tells Mama that wallowing in the past is a waste of time. She feels that Mama should stay in Houston, so Jessie Mae can have easy access to her social security checks; sorry, I mean for Mama's own health. The interactions between Jessie Mae and Mama were tiny bits of pure entertainment and comedy. While Jessie Mae rambles on, all Mama has to do is manipulate her face, with wisdom and cunning, and the message is always clear. 

This speaks to Cicely Tyson’s pure mastery of the stage. For when an actor can speak to the audience through their body language alone, there is a sense of pure beauty in that unabridged communication. It is made even more beautiful by the fact that the body belongs to this fabulous 88-year-old actress. Tyson was such a master at interacting with the audience that she had the full audience singing along as she belted out a hymn. A performance that was acknowledged with a TONY.

Thelma, played by Condola Rashad, was another bright piece in the play. The depth of her character took me by surprise. At first she seemed to be only a meek girl caught in the Watts’ drama. But slowly, like a peeled onion, she revealed her character. The interaction between her and Mrs. Watts is beautiful. It carried symbolic meaning in a way. The past and the future talking to each other as they head back home away from the bustling city. Her performance made her standout as much more then just a supporting actress. She had her own beautiful story. Thelma didn’t just support Mrs. Watts; she danced with her on her journey.  A dance so refreshing that it was awarded TONY nomination. There's a future ahead of her.

 The depth of character that both these actresses showed seemed somewhat lacking from the rest of the cast. The characters of Jessie Mae and Ludie Watts --played by Cuba Gooding Jr.-- came off as one-dimensional.  I wanted to not just hate Jessie Mae but also sympathize with her. But William’s performance left me completely disliking Jessie Mae with a fury. Ludie came of as a dumb man simply being used by his demanding wife. Even when there were moments that allowed expansion of the character Ludie came off as an oaf incapable of truly thinking for himself.  

If anything this play allows for you to see one of the greats gracing the stage. I can still see every single expression Tyson conveyed. I can still feel every sadness and joy that touched her on her Trip to Bountiful. In this bustling city sometimes we forget the unequaled beauty and strength of those quaint towns we originated from. Sometimes all it takes is a place to remind us of a beauty that cannot be monetized but only felt.


Photo taken by: Ben Brantley


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