‘The Traveling Lady,” now playing at the Bay Area Harbour Playhouse, is another valentine to small-town life by Pulitzer Prize winner Horton Foote.
Following the enjoyable 2013 production of Foote’s “Dividing The Estate,” it’s a real pleasure to see the company take on another of his plays. Hopefully, this will be an annual tradition and with more than 60 scripts in Foote’s catalog, there’s plenty to choose from.
In “The Traveling Lady,” Foote shows how the lives of different townsfolk are affected by the arrival of a young woman seeking her jailbird husband. It’s been criticized for being one of his more scattered stories, but I enjoyed the anecdotal nature of the plot, and the way different characters were searching (and not always finding) love.
It’s always exciting to watch a play that transports you to a different world, immersing you in an alien culture but there’s equal, perhaps even greater, enjoyment in seeing your own world and culture up on stage. While this show is set decades ago, it’s a way of life familiar to many in Galveston County and the chuckles of recognition from the audience on opening night show it’s a welcome and still relevant representation of small-town Texas.
Another strong directorial offering from Amber Fabian, the show features fine performances that make the three acts and two hours of show time fly by.
Curmira Bill plays the irascible Mrs. Mavis, an old-timer whose ramblings through the town has her witness to all kinds of town secrets. In a wonderful performance, Bill uses crotchety humor to full effect, tucking the play under her stiff elbow and marching right off with it. Also impressive was Nyah Taylor, who plays her long-suffering daughter with a world-weary quality that belies the actor’s young age.
In the lead roles, Zach Dockal does a great job as the courtly Slim Murray, and Danny Hernandez is affecting as the troubled Henry Thomas. Berkley Rose Pearl is good as Georgette, the woman choosing between both men (and the traveling lady of the title), but she needs to ensure her flustered responses are true to the character so the audience doesn’t interpret them as moments when she’s lost her lines.
In smaller parts, Mike Fabian and Sam Kee bring gravitas to their roles as local lawmen, while Constance Bowers is accomplish as temperance campaigner Mrs. Tillman. Child actor Savannah Pearl is sweetly longing in her search for a father figure, and Sharon Goodwin is so warm as neighborhood woman Clara Breedlove it’s almost like sunshine on your face.
The costumes are appropriate to the period with standouts being Georgette’s tailored day dresses, the judge’s spiffy hat and bolo tie, and the sheriff’s realistic uniform. The set is hand painted by the cast and looks amateurish.
If you feel modern life is a desperate dash up and down Interstate 45, then you’ll enjoy stepping back in time with this play. “The Traveling Lady” is a refreshing stroll down a sweet-smelling county lane where you bask in the warming rays of dignity, compassion and humanity radiating from the stage.
‘The Traveling Lady’
When: Until April 13; performances are 8 p.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday and 2:30 p.m. Sunday
Where: Bay Area Harbour Playhouse, 3803 state Highway 3, Dickinson
Tickets: $17 and $12; call 281-337-7469 or visit www.harbourplayhouse.com