"Dividing the Estate" enlivens Broadway

In addition to making audiences laugh out loud, the revival of Horton Foote's Dividing the Estate takes a sharp look at family politics and economic interests that have played a role in our current economic outlook.

Pulitzer Prize-winner Foote shows how tough economic times in the late 1980s are forcing a chatty Texas family to confront its past before it can prepare for its future. Southern matriarch Stella Gordon rules over the purse strings and dominates her family, which lives off the income earned from her estate. As the value of her estate shrinks, her grip on the purse strings starts to loosen.

Stella has three children and none of them knows what it means to work for a living. Lewis is both a womanizer and a gambler. Mary Jo is a self-centered housewife who likes to spend money and is teaching her daughters to follow her example. Lucille, a widower, lives with her mother. They all come together at a family dinner at Stella's once prized mansion, the first time they've been together in months. As Stella expects, the topic of conversation is dividing the estate. Her children want to get the money while she is still living instead of waiting until she dies although Stella doesn't want to part with her funds. But after years of borrowing money on the estate, the family's way of life is coming to an end.

"The fraying dynasty presided over by the octogenarian matriarch Stella is discovering that plummeting real estate values, unforeseen taxes, and a shrinking dollar are forcing its members to make do and get along (well, barely) in ways they never anticipated," according a rave review in The New York Times, which called the play a must for discriminating theatergoers. It is at the Booth Theatre until January 2009.

Dividing the Estate stars Foote's real life daughter Hallie Foote, who plays Mary Jo, a performance praised by The New York Times, "As played with true comic genius by Hallie Foote, the covetous, calculating Mary Jo has absolutely no sense of humor."


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