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THEATER REVIEW 'THE TRIP TO BOUNTIFUL' : Gentle Journey : The play about an elderly woman's wish to return to her rural hometown has strong direction and convincing characters.


Those who fondly recall the Ojai Art Center Theatre company's 1991 production of "On Golden Pond" need know only that two of its stars and its director Tish Winkworth are involved in the group's current version of Horton Foote's "The Trip to Bountiful."

That should be reason enough to fill the building with last year's audience.

With luck, there'll also be room for newcomers to enjoy the group's fine work.

Like "On Golden Pond," "The Trip to Bountiful" focuses on gentle, older people who are at odds with their progeny.

Here, Carrie Watts shares a small, Houston apartment with her son, Ludie and his wife, Jessie Mae.

Feeling cramped and unappreciated, Carrie wishes only to return to her rural hometown, Bountiful, before she dies.

Shrill and self-centered, Jessie Mae wants no such thing: Even though she feels that Carrie cramps what style she has, she depends on Carrie's pension check.

And Ludie isn't about to quarrel with his wife.

Foote's excellent play, based on his 1953 television drama, was further adapted into a 1985 feature film that won Academy Awards for both the author and star Geraldine Page.

The three principal actors in the Ojai production are terrific.

Charlotte Bronstein plays Carrie with great dignity and not a little slyness.

Jerry Armstrong avoids caricature in his portrayal of the henpecked Ludie.

And Debra Gaynor grabs hold of Jessie Mae like a mud wrestler: She is a caricature, but so much fun, it hardly matters.

Armstrong is more subtle, but at one point during Saturday's performance, the audience virtually hissed his character's treatment of Mom.

Bronstein and Armstrong both performed in "On Golden Pond."

Art Center theatergoers might remember Gaynor from her performance in "Vanities," also last year.

Strong and credible in a smaller role is Susan M. Webb, in her first performance with the Ojai group.

She plays an innocent bystander who unwittingly gets drawn into the family drama.

Also appearing are David Douglas, Elmer Bladow, Bruce Mathison and Hank Reisner.

Bladow has designed three sets; one functional, two of them extraordinary.

The costumes are uncredited but fine.

If there were local theater awards, whoever came up with Jessie Mae's gaudy get-ups would be a strong contender.


"The Trip to Bountiful" continues Friday and Saturday nights at 8 through May 16, with a 2 p.m. matinee on Sunday, May 3. The Ojai Art Center is located at 113 S. Montgomery St. in Ojai. Reserved seats are $8; $6 for seniors and students. Group rates are available. For reservations or further information, call 646-0117.


Auditions for The Magnificent Moorpark & Vaudeville Company's upcoming production, "Virtue Victorious," will be held this Sunday from noon to 4 p.m.

Applicants should sign in at noon and be prepared to sing, dance and do a cold reading.

Rehearsals begin Monday and will continue on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday nights and Saturday mornings. The show opens June 19 and continues through July 25.

Tryouts, rehearsals and performances will be held at the Melodrama's theater, at 45 E. High Street, Moorpark. For further information, call 529-1212.

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