Horton Foote's Way With Women
Horton Foote has a way with women -- or at least his women characters.
Think of Kim Stanley in The Chase, Shirley Knight in The Young Man from Atlanta, Hallie Foote in Dividing the Estate, Betty Buckley in Old Friends, Estelle Parsons in The Day Emily Married or any of the actors playing Carrie Watts in The Trip to Bountiful, starting with Lillian Gish, and continuing with Geraldine Page, Lois Smith, and Cicely Tyson.
"You learn about these women by the way they are with one another," says Harriet Harris, who is playing the role of Vonnie Hayhurst in the Primary Stages revival of Foote's The Roads to Home. (The show, which is being staged as part of a Horton Foote centennial celebration, runs through November 27 at the Cherry Lane Theatre.)
Set in Texas in 1924, the play follows Vonnie and her neighbor Mabel Votaugh (Hallie Foote) as they befriend a young, distraught woman named Annie Gaye Long (Rebecca Brooksher). All three are lonely, and all three long for a happier past in the towns where they grew up. Through Foote's gentle writing, they find comfort from their troubled lives and marriages, at least for a time, in each other's company and in a mutual understanding of where circumstances have taken them.
"[In this play] he says, 'friends are the most precious things on earth'," says Harris, a Fort Worth, Texas native. "We see that importance with these women who want to be known, to have someone 'get' them. And the way you do that is by sharing stories they need to tell one another. But sometimes it's done without any lines, with just the way they look or listen."