Dividing the Estate
“Evidence that history repeats itself is everywhere in Dividing the Estate,” said David Rooney in Variety. Though written 20 years ago and set against the financial turmoil of the late 1980s, playwright Horton Foote’s satirical take on a Texas family’s inheritance squabbles feels exceedingly contemporary. Foote’s fictional town of Harrison, Texas, is struggling with a sunken real estate market, increased joblessness, and a declining dollar. When the Gordon family convenes to discuss the clan’s fiscal future, it’s clear “these folks are all out for themselves.” Foote’s genius lies in giving each of his characters an unwavering sense of family loyalty and the perfect balance of “insidiousness and charm.”
Even without the newly acquired “gloss of relevance,” the play would still be worthwhile, said Ben Brantley in The New York Times. This production has improved since its off-Broadway premiere a year ago, and the latest incarnation “reveals it to be one of the masterworks of the 92-year-old Foote,” who has also given us The Trip to Bountiful and the Pulitzer-winning The Young Man From Atlanta. The 12 returning members of the ensemble cast include the magnificent Elizabeth Ashley and the playwright’s daughter, Hallie Foote. Director Michael Wilson displays a keen sense of economy and “hair-trigger timing,” all of which make this production of Dividing the Estate “a must for discriminating theatergoers.”
The actors seem a much sharper set of knives this time around, said Joe Dziemianowicz in the New York Daily News. Ashley again proves her mettle as family matriarch Stella, and Gerald McRaney’s restrained and charismatic turn as alcoholic son Lewis may be his best work yet. But “it’s virtually impossible to imagine the show without the divine comedy of Hallie Foote.” The actress steals the second act with her deadpan portrayal of Mary Jo, the greediest and most humorless of all the Gordons. Foote’s play may lack the profundity or ambition of Tracy Letts’ August: Osage County—the other “multigenerational melee” currently on Broadway—but his fine work never fails to evoke a laugh.