Dividing the Estate
|Dividing the Estate|
Playbill for the Broadway production
|Written by||Horton Foote|
|Place premiered||McCarter Theater
|Subject||Three siblings squabble over their inheritance|
|Setting||Harrison, Texas, 1987|
Dividing the Estate is a play by Horton Foote. The play premiered at the McCarter Theatre in 1989 and Off-Broadway in 2007, winning the Outer Critics Circle Award for Outstanding New Off-Broadway Play.
Set in the fictional town of Harrison, Texas, in 1987, it focuses on the Gordons, a clan of malcontents ruled by octogenarian matriarch Stella that must prepare for an uncertain future when plunging real estate values and an unexpected tax bill have a negative impact on the family fortune. Stella's children - predatory Mary Jo, complacent Lucille, and alcoholic Lewis - engage in a debate about whether or not they should divide the estate while their mother is still alive in order to ensure themselves financial independence.
The play premiered at the McCarter Theatre in New Jersey in 1989. Presented by the Lincoln Center Theater Company and Primary Stages Theater, it opened on September 27, 2007 at the Off-Broadway 59East59Street Theatre, where it ran until October 27. Directed by Michael Wilson, the cast included Elizabeth Ashley as Stella, Hallie Foote as Mary Jo, Penny Fuller as Lucille, and Gerald McRaney as Lewis.
The production transferred to Broadway for a limited engagement with its original cast. It began previews at the Booth Theatre on October 23, 2008, officially opened on November 20, and closed on January 4, 2009 after 50 performances and 31 previews.
In his review in the New York Times, Ben Brantley called the play "deeply funny" and stated, "Mr. Foote's authorial gaze is focused with satiric sharpness while retaining its elegiac sense of life's transience."  David Rooney of Variety thought it was "distinctly old-fashioned . . . with an air of familiarity" but added, "Spend time with Foote's richly human characters and concerns about the play's dustiness quickly fade. The Chekhovian intrusion of past upon present, the melancholy acknowledgement of a world in decline, the gentle but tart humor, the clear-eyed compassion tinged with despair - these qualities remind us why the 91-year-old playwright remains such a distinctively expressive voice in contemporary American drama."
Joe Dziemianowicz of the New York Daily News said the play "goes for laughs and succeeds, and at the same time comments on more sweeping notions of avarice, entitlement and carpetbagging karma. It's not as profound or ambitious as Broadway's other multigenerational melee, August: Osage County, but Foote's fine play does go down easy." In USA Today, Elysa Gardner observed, "The folks we meet in Estate . . . can be immensely irritating, but they're not, well, bad people — or, truth be told, terribly interesting ones." 
Awards and nominations
- Review Variety, September 27, 2007
- Outer Critics Circle archives Archived September 27, 2008, at the Wayback Machine. outercritics.org
- Obies Village Voice
- "'Dividing the Estate' Broadway" Archived November 6, 2015, at the Wayback Machine. playbillvault.com, accessed November 7, 2015
- Brantley, Ben. "Review. Death and Texas" New York Times, September 28, 2007
- Dziemianowicz, Joe. "Broadway's 'Divding the Estate'"[permanent dead link] New York Daily News, November 20, 2008
- Gardner, Elysa. Dividing the Estate" USA Today, November 20, 2008