Magazine article Variety

Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote

Magazine article Variety

Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote

Article excerpt

LEGIT OFF BROADWAY

Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote

59E59 Theaters; 180 seats; $70 top

Primary Stages continues its Foote Family Reunion scheduling with "Harrison, TX," three one-act plays by the late, great patriarch Horton Foote. The ensemble is anchored by Hallie Foote, who has an uncanny affinity for her fathers idiosyncratic characters, and scribe Daisy Foote will complete this family portrait with her own new play opening next month. On the current bill are two sketchy, if beautifully written, scenes of Southern life just before the Depression flattens this Texas town. The third piece, which captures the tone of quiet desperation in a respectable boarding house, is more finished but still could have used an edit.

The designers have gone overboard on the depressing decor, with scene settings too dark for Foote 's delicately put feelings - a subtle blend of affection, sympathy, humor and horror - about the pseudonymous little Texas town that became the bottomless well of inspiration for his many plays.

"Blind Date" is a spot-on sample of Foote's lethal sense of humor. This 1920s version of a sitcom is set in the home of Robert Henry (Devon Abner, a solid presence), a successful lawyer and undisputed king of his comfortable domestic kingdom. The role of Henry's perfect lady of a wife, Dolores, now fits Hallie Foote like her own skin.

Dolores has gone to great trouble arranging a date for her willfully independent niece, Sarah Nancy (Andrea Lynn Green, a saucy little comedienne and a real find), who at first seems to be the brunt of the joke. But once Dolores finishes dispensing her dead-serious tricks on how a clever girl catches a man this dark comedy turns into a nuanced study of how different generations of Southern women use their wits to survive in a man's world.

"The One-Armed Man" is even more of a sketch, but with a stark central image that sums up the master/serf relationship between the haves and have-nots in the industrial south of the 1920s. The action takes place in the office of C.W. Rowe (the stalwart Jeremy Bobb), the self-satisfied owner of a cotton gin who treats his underpaid bookkeeper (another sturdy turn from Abner) with contempt. "There is no excuse for a man to be in debt in this great little town of ours," he lectures this wretch. …

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