Chicago Daily Tribune – Thursday, November 5th, 1953 Part 4 – Page 12
Miss Gish Star of an Exciting Drama in N.Y.
By John Chapman (New York News Drama Critic)
New York, Nov. 4 – Because if its unexpectedness it is surprising, and because of its excellence it is exciting to see sweet little Lillian Gish giving a big performance. But a big performance it is at Henry Miller’s theater, where Lillian Gish and an astonishing actress named Jo Van Fleet opened last evening in Horton Foote’s playlet, “The Trip to Bountiful.”
This piece is a sentimental sketch about an old lady who escapes from her son and daughter-in-law and flees to her girlhood home in Bountiful. The place is in Texas, so you pronounce it Bayountiful – because it is in the sayowth and evvebody in the play is suthin.
Author Foote is unabashed and unashamed as he pulls out the tremolo stops for his composition. Miss Gish is set upon and nagged beyond endurance. She has a couple of heart attacks and when she gets back home to Bountiful after 20 years she finds the old homestead a rotten ruin. But having had her little trip, she is happy once again and is willing to return peaceably to the insufferable nagging of her daughter-in-law, Miss Van Fleet.
As well as being unabashed and unashamed, Author Foote is admirably skillful as he sets forth his play. He has a fine sense of humor, a true eye for character, and a good ear for talk. In spite of its sentimentality and its tenuous story, “The Trip to Bountiful” is good theater.
The two main actresses make it good theater. Miss Gish, who flirted with playing an old lady a few seasons ago in “The Curious Savage,” goes at the job this time with all the will and skill of a really good player. In voice, in accent, and in make-up she is a pathetic little soul who lives under the domination of a hellion daughter-in-law and yearns for escape to the old homestead.
Miss Van Fleet, as the daughter-in-law, gives the saltiest, funniest, and most artful feminine characterization of the season. She is a shrill, nervous, cruel, and empty headed woman who has a mouse for a husband and another mouse for a mother-in-law, and she resents both. Last night’s first audience cheered both women before the play was over – something that doesn’t happen much any more.