The Traveling Lady
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Theater review by Helen Shaw
Horton Foote has a way of tiptoeing up on you. One moment, you’re feeling lulled and lazy by his plays’ drawling Texans, who are being all neighborly and living peaceful midcentury lives. But as the play goes by, you’re suddenly awash in feeling: In his warm Chekhovian evenings, pain always arrives in Eden.
In its beautifully performed revival at the Cherry Lane, Foote’s 1954 The Traveling Lady reveals itself as a particularly well-shaped little jewel. The titular Georgette (Jean Lichty) shows up in Clara Breedlove’s backyard, her little girl in tow, looking for her just-released ex-con husband, Henry (PJ Sosko). Harrison, Texas, is the kind of place where everyone tries to give a hand: Big-hearted Slim (Larry Bull), calm Clara (Angelina Fiordellisi), nosy Sitter (Karen Ziemba), rueful Judge Robedaux (George Morfogen) and even poor Henry himself mean Georgette well. But maybe it’s a mistake that people keep talking about “breaking” Henry of his alcoholism, since broken is what he already seems to be.
Austin Pendleton has the most delicate directorial hands in the business; the show’s centerpiece is a quiet scene between Bull and Fiordellisi, a hymn to restraint. Luckily, Clara’s garden has room for some naughtier angels as well: the play’s tartest characters, teetotaler Mrs. Tillman (Jill Tanner) and cackling maniac Mrs. Mavis (the masterful Lynn Cohen). The rest of ’em invite you onto the porch, but these two keep the tea from turning too sweet.
Cherry Lane Theatre (). By Horton Foote. Dir. Austin Pendleton. With ensemble cast. Running time: 1hr 45mins. No intermission. Through July 16.
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