Monday, June 4, 2012

Dividing the Estate by Horton Foote, Zach Theatre, May 29 - July 2

Dividing the Estate Zach Theatre Horton Foote Austin TX

by Dr. David Glen Robinson

The Zach Theatre is a great showcase for local and regional art and talent, claiming as it does all the advantages of location, etc. It seems to hold court over Lady Bird Lake, with hill country scenery upstream and the shining, multi-colored towers of Austin across the lake. I visited Zach to see Dividing the Estate, Horton Foote’s 1989 play about a Texas family falling apart over estate inheritance.

To cut to the chase, the family had already fallen apart, and so had the estate of the title, which was really only a metaphor for that family. The former glory of the estate was represented by the gorgeous set by Cliff Simon. If you think this is a spoiler and with that the play was over save for upscale furniture-gnawing, think again,for this was indeed only the beginning. Dividing the Estate is a brilliant exposition of time and place and how the fortunes of families and individuals depend on those elemental things. The Zach Scott production of the play does it proud.

The time of the play is the mid-Eighties oil bust, the one centered in Houston. The place is fictional Harrison, Texas. The real-life place is Wharton, Texas, without a doubt. The characters discuss the features and problems of life in Wharton, Texas in great, accurate detail. These include the vast acreages of grazing land tumbling in value, proximity to Houston (in every sense), sulfur domes, oil wells, ranching mansions, a main street lined with empty store fronts and a plastics plant run by Asian investors (still in operation today).

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