Equity Library Theatre Chicago, at Eclipse Theatre Company.
Just after the birth of her second child, Annie begins to lose her grip, yearning for her girlhood in the little town of Harrison, Arkansas; her husband fears he may have to put her in an asylum. Vonnie Hayhurst still names Monroe, Louisiana, as her home, though she hasn’t lived there since her marriage. After one of her many visits there, her husband asks for a divorce. Neither Mabel nor Jack Votaugh was born in Houston, but unlike their neighbors they seem perfectly happy there, yet capable of picking up and moving on should the need arise. To them falls the task of comforting their homesick friends.
Playwright Horton Foote is renowned for dramas mundane to the point of inertia and dialogue naturalistic to the point of enigma. So characterization is crucial if we’re to attend to the meandering conversations of these garrulous people. Judy Blue and Brad Bales make Mabel and Jack so whole and familiar that we listen to them with an unswerving faith that their talk will be as interesting to us as it is to them. But whenever they’re absent from the stage, even momentarily, this interest vanishes. Though the other actors recite their lines with professional skill, they don’t seem to have found the core of their characters, a discovery director John McCrite has apparently failed to extract from them. The resulting soporific tale of everyday life wakes up only when Blue and Bales are present.