Harrison, TX - Three Plays by Horton Foote at Primary Stages.

by: Sandi Durell

Gentler times reign (we think) with two plays set in 1928, when please and thank you meant something. Or at least gave the aura of social acceptability.

 Born in Wharton, Texas, Pulitzer Prize and Oscar winning Horton Foote, exemplifies the charm of southern dignity and more.“Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote” are part of Primary Stages’ current production at 59e59 Theaters, delicately directed by Pam MacKinnon.

“Blind Date” is the story of Sarah Nancy (Andrea Lynn Green) who stomps, pouts and spews just enough to turn away any gentlemen callers her Aunt Dolores (Hallie Foote), a High School beauty queen, may invite. While Dolores endeavors to pass along the learned art of social graces, conversation and acceptability, it’s a train to nowhere when Felix (Evan Jonigkeit) comes to visit Sarah Nancy, a gal with a mind of her own. Dolores’ husband Robert (Devon Abner) has only one thing on his mind – – where’s my supper! This is subtle comedy at its best.

The second story, “The One-Armed Man,” has more serious overtones, when a young man “Nup”McHenry (Alexander Cendese),who lost his arm in a cotton-gin accident, comes calling on one of his weekly visits to bloviated owner C.W. Rowe (Jeremy Bobb) demanding he get his arm back. All the while Rowe struts around his office, tongue-lashing his browbeaten accountant and yes-man Pinkey (Abner), as he spouts off about his own lavish life-style. The eventual outcome is all too reminiscent of breaking news of today.

Act III of this 90 minute, no intermission, production moves to a rooming house in 1952 where a group of lonely ladies reside. There’s Alma Jean (Mary Bacon), an obviously disgruntled gossipy spinster, ‘Cutie’ (Green) who cries at the drop of a hat wanting desperately to have a man and marriage in her life, Ms. Rowena Douglas (the impeccable Jayne Houdyshell) a retired school teacher replete with niceties about stars, moons and lightning bugs who gazes out the window most of the time, and Mrs. Crawford, played again by Hallie Foote in very much the same characterization as the first vignette. They all have that southern gift of gab and chatter that allows them to sidestep real issues and keep their façade, except when it’s no longer feasible.

When divorced Ralph Johnson (Jeremy Bobb) enters the house as a boarder, the chemistry and rhythms of the women change dramatically. That is topped by the somewhat tainted Helen Crews (Jenny Dare Paulin) whose mother threw her out because she was dating the drunken, but rich and good-looking, Harvey Weems (Cendese) who comes calling in the middle of the night. As a relationship begins to bloom between Helen and Ralph, the loneliness, jealousies and human flaws of the characters rise to the top.

Horton Foote had an innate ability to capture life and tell the story. He died in 2009 and we are all fortunate to have his daughter Hallie carry forward his thoughts and feelings that are so ingrained in her being.

The set design is my Marion Williams, costumes by Kaye Voyce and lighting by Tyler Micoleau.

“Harrison, TX: Three Plays by Horton Foote continues thru September 15 at Primary Stages, 59e59 St.