Posted in ensemble acting, family affair, Harrison, Horton Foote, three short plays, TX

"Harrison, TX…" Delves Deeply Into Human Frailty and Strength

Tony Award nominee Jayne Houdyshell
(for Follies and Well) speaks about her current role in “Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote” at Primary Stages.
The places in which we grew up have stories to tell.

Evan Jonigkeit, Hallie Foote, Andrea Lynn Green, Devon Abner in “Blind Date” from “Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote” at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters. © 2012 James Leynse.
At least that’s true if you’re Horton Foote, whose first play, “Texas Town” was produced off-Broadway in 1941. And his favorite Texas town was the fictional “Harrison, TX” which stood in for his birthplace of Wharton in many of his plays.

In “Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote,” a bundled compiliation of works written at different times, at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters through  September 15th, Foote’s subtle and sincere character sketches are minutely drawn. Each play on the program quickly captures the essence of its characters.

The accomplished cast, led by Horton Foote’s eldest daughter, Hallie (a Tony-nominee for her work in her father’s “Dividing The Estate,” which premiered at Primary Stages before its Broadway transfer), convey the poignancy and humor in these brief tales. This production is something of a family affair, featuring Hallie Foote’s husband, Devon Abner, himself a veteran of other Horton Foote productions and an ensemble many of whom  have also appeared in other Foote plays.


The first of the three plays is the sweetly funny “Blind Date,” which has Dolores (Hallie Foote) fussing over her truculent niece, Sarah Nancy (Andrea Lynn Green.) Green’s clumping Sarah Nancy is delightful.

There are some particularly sharp insights into the avuncular C.W. Rowe (Jeremy Bobb), the executive in “The One-Armed Man,” part two on the bill, whose sense of charity is shaded by his self-importance.



Jeremy Bobb and Devon Abner in “The One-Armed Man” from  “Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote” at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters. © 2012 James Leynse.

“The Midnight Caller” is a wistful look at winners and losers in love. In it, Miss Rowena Douglas (Jayne Houdyshell) is incurably romantic, staring at fireflies and the harvest moon from the windows of the boarding house she shares with two other women. Alma Jean Jordan (Mary Bacon) and “Cutie” Spencer (Andrea Lynn Green, showing her versatility), stenographers in the local courthouse, each resigned in her own way to spinsterhood. When their landlady, Mrs. Crawford (Hallie Foote) takes in new boarders, Helen Crews (Jenny Dare Paulin) and a gentlemen, Mr. Ralph Johnston (Jeremy Bobb) scandal enters their parlor. Helen’s former lover, Harvey Weems (Alexander Cendese) crys out into the night for a love lost while another love blossoms.



Clockwise from left: Jayne Houdyshell, Mary Bacon, Jeremy Bobb, Andrea Lynn Green, Jenny Dare Paulin, and Alexander Cendese in “The Midnight Caller” from “Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote” at Primary Stages at 59E59 Theaters. © 2012 James Leynse.
  

Everything in the Pam McKinnon-helmed production is dry and spare. Marion Williams has made some excellent choices in the scenic design, using a simple and versatile staircase to help delineate and define the small space in each of the three short works. The costumes by Kate Voyce elegantly reflect the time periods – 1928 for the first two and 1952 for the last- of each story.



Understanding the heart and soul is an attribute of the greatest philosopher-writers. It’s not for nothing that Horton Foote has been referred to as the American Anton Chekhov. He is plainspoken and straightforward, yet sees the nuances and foibles in humanity.In 1996, Foote was inducted into the Theatre Hall of Fame, just one among his many honors which included two Academy Awards and a Pulitzer.


To find out more about “Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote,” please visit http://primarystages.org/ 

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