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NY1 Theater Review: "Harrison, TX"

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Off Broadway's Primary Stages Theater Company is kicking off its 28th season with "Harrison, TX," a production that offers up three one acts by the late Pulitzer Prize and Oscar-winning writer Horton Foote. NY1's Roma Torre filed the following review.

One-act plays can often be sketchy but even in this mode, the late great playwright Horton Foote reveals his mastery of the dramatic form. His plays, mostly all set in his rural Texas homeland, depict in splendid detail the hard truths of small-town life. And in finding the comedy and tragedy of his characters' quiet existence, he echoes the intuitive grace notes of Anton Chekhov.

The intermissionless slate of three one-acts are connected only through their setting, Harrison, TX. It begins with the amusing "Blind Date." Set in 1928, it's a character study essentially about decorum and misplaced notions of southern propriety. Led by the playwright's daughter, Hallie Foote as a warmly chatty matron, the piece could easily turn into sketch comedy. But Ms. Foote takes us right to the brink of stereotype without ever stepping over the line. It's a consummate portrait and the highlight of the production.

From comedy, the show turns deadly serious. "The One-Armed Man," also set in 1928, concerns a man who's lost his arm in a cotton gin accident and has come to retrieve it from his self-righteous former boss. Less complete than the previous act, it too exposes the limits of social convention.

Act III, "The Midnight Caller," is set in a boarding house is the longest of the three. The year is 1952 and in structure it brings to mind an old Hollywood film featuring an odd collection of decent, yearning types coping with life's disappointments. The more detailed plot involves a failed love affair and eventual resolution.

It's all very well acted but the standout here is Jayne Houdyshell as a retired school teacher, poetically resigned to her unfulfilled fate.

Directed with impressive clarity by Pam McKinnon, Harrison, TX is a fine if limited sampling of Horton Foote's depth, wisdom and insight.

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