There’s a bounty of talent in ProArt’s ‘The Trip to Bountiful’

Stage Review

Sharyn Stone (left) and Kathryn Holtkamp delight in ProArts Playhouse’s “The Trip to Bountiful.” Performances continue through Feb. 11. • JACK GRACE photo

When you crave a specific regional cuisine, you can probably find an adequate version at a chain restaurant or grocery store. Although the meal is enjoyable, it often falls short of satisfaction. Maui theater always offers respectable productions, but once or twice each season ideal ingredients amalgamate to create a stupendous theatrical feast. ProArts Playhouse’s “The Trip To Bountiful” is one of those perfect little shows, and it is not to be missed.

Lina Aiko Krueger has assembled an extraordinary team in her directorial debut resulting in a production that has no weak links. As compelling as each acting performance is, so are the flawless costumes and props by Kristi Scott, an inspired set by Caro Walker and divine lighting by Amy Lord. In the leading role of Carrie Watts, Sharyn Stone gives her greatest performance.

Stone’s authenticity and devotion combined with Horton Foote’s poetic and dreamy script would be enough to cement “Bountiful” as one of the best productions of the 2017 to 2018 season, but the rich portrayals do not end there.

Frank Hayes as Ludie Watts, Carrie’s son, offers a stoic performance possibly difficult to appreciate early in Act 1. However, his choices are decidedly accurate, rooted in Southern familiarity and formality, and in perfect contrast to Stone and Gabby Anderman as Jessie Mae Watts. Anderman’s finely tuned portrayal recalls the performances of the great Estelle Parsons. Her Jesse Mae, the panicky, high-handed wife of Ludie, stands on its own as award-worthy. The richness of Foote’s beautiful storytelling lies within these well-crafted characters and lyrical prose.

Kathryn Holtkamp presents an equally memorable performance as Thelma, Carrie’s bus-mate on the journey to Bountiful, Texas — the home of her youth. Holt-kamp is perfection personified as Thelma and aptly praised by Watts: “If my daughter had lived, I would have wanted her to be just like you.” Holtkamp epitomizes this with genuine caring for a complete stranger and the offer of assistance with a smile.

(From left) Gabby Anderman, Sharyn Stone and Frank Hayes portray a Southern family in “The Trip to Bountiful.” • JACK GRACE photo

Ally Shore as Ruby, the clerk at the Harrison bus station, also brings authenticity in a smaller role, likely to be overlooked were it not for her attention to detail. As Watts breaks into the singing of “What a Friend We Have in Jesus” in the middle of the station, Shore reacts much like we all would — a look that implied, “What is wrong with this old lady?” Throughout the Harrison scenes, Shore drew laughs as we watched her reactions in contrast to the primary action.

As Watts’ trip, or escape from reality into a dream, comes to an end, Francis Tau’a as the Harrison sheriff adds one more side dish of authenticity. His fatigued and annoyed first offering arcs to another genuine act of benevolence as Watts’ journey crescendos.

“The Trip to Bountiful” might be perceived as uneventful or slow-moving to some. Foote, however, challenges a modern audience to ponder their own humanity and find the time to listen, share, and offer mercy and tenderness; mostly just enjoy a night in the moonlight on a porch or a bench or a bus with someone who is on our side.

* Performances of “The Trip To Bountiful” continue at 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays through Feb. 11 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei. Tickets are $26. For more information or to purchase tickets for any ProArts event, call 463-6550 or visit