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The Traveling Lady - a fine ensemble brings Horton Foote's quirky and fine tuned dialogue to life

Oscar E. Moore “from the rear mezzanine” for Talk

Condensing Horton Foote’s 1954 three act play (which starred Kim Stanley) into a one hour forty five minute intermission-less one act is akin to Cinderella’s step sisters trying to fit their feet into the infamous glass slipper. It’s a tough go.

Some things just don’t make complete sense and there are some awkward transitions. Director Austin Pendleton does his best to make amends by having many of the actors enter and exit via the center aisle of The Cherry Lane Theatre where THE TRAVELING LADY is spreading its homespun tale that takes place in the lovely garden of Clara Breedlove’s Texas home. Set design by Harry Feiner.

Despite this Readers Digest version (upon investigation it appears that Mr. Foote along with Marion Castleberry revised the script before his death in a California production 2011) the voice of Horton Foote rings true with his characters that appear to be real and believable as they gossip and go about their lives and wait to see the fate of Georgette Thomas (Jean Lichty - The Traveling Lady) who has arrived via bus with her seven year old daughter Margaret Rose (Korinne Tetlow) in tow to meet up with her estranged husband Henry (a charismatic PJ Sosko) who is to be released from the State Penitentiary after his seven year stint for stabbing someone in a drunken frenzy. Problem is Henry has been released earlier and is now working for Mrs. Tillman (Jill Tanner) whose aim in life is to rehabilitate lost souls.

It is the day of the funeral of the woman who raised Henry as the play begins. An elderly Judge (George Morfogen) tries to make conversation with the elderly and feisty Mrs. Mavis (Lynn Cohen) who chomps on dates and makes wise cracks that add immensely to the humor of the piece. Her spinster daughter (Karen Ziemba) is heard calling for her off stage – as she is wont to disappear at odd times.

Slim (Larry Bull) lives with his sister Clara Breedlove (Angelina Fiordellisi) and is hard at work on some sort of gizmo and has lost his wife under odd circumstances and is at once attracted to the new lady in town and her daughter.

Henry finally shows up and the couple are reunited. He also sings with a guitar at the request of Mrs. Mavis…

So there is a lot going on in this small town that sometimes verges on being a small town Texas soap opera. But Horton Foote always comes to the rescue with his quirky and fine-tuned dialogue that charms despite other factors that diminish the production somewhat.

Will Henry and Georgette make a go of it? Will Henry overcome his alcoholism? Will Slim have a happy ending?

You have until July 16th to find out. Although you might already know the answers.

Perfect period costumes by Theresa Squire enhance THE TRAVELING LADY as well as the nice lighting effects by Harry Feiner – especially the fireflies at dusk. At the Cherry Lane Theatre.

Photo: Carol Rosegg

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