Reviewer: Howard Steven Frydman
Playwright: Jez Butterworth
Director: Rob Ruggiero
“So it goes like it goes and the river flows, And time it rolls right on, And maybe what’s good gets a little bit better, And maybe what’s bad gets gone”.
THE RIVER- A Love Tale – like an elusive fish scampering along in cold watery currents – and the wide eyed fisherman at waters edge, will it be caught or let go – a process to be repeated over and over. THE RIVER is the current entry being produced at TheaterWorks, now celebrating its 33rd season, in downtown Hartford, written by English Playwright Jez Butterworth and directed by TheaterWorks Producing Artistic Director Rob Ruggerio. The River was first produced by the Royal Court Theatre London in 2012 and them premiered on Broadway in 2014 starring Hugh Jackman. So grab your flannel shirt, your favorite fishing pole and head down to THE RIVER – for an alluringly fascinating evening of live theater.
THE RIVER brings to mind’s eye a mystic ancient fable that you have heard through the ages. An Aesop’s tale – such as “The Fish and the Fisherman” – a tale that comes alive and that is only seen once in a blue moon – a fable of the River, its denizens of fishes and the man, the women, a river, a love and the tale that is caught in the current – always repeating itself until it can finally come full circle.
The characters with no names – yes – no names, it adds to the mystique – they are what they are. Their only designation – man one, woman one, woman two, but you quickly define them yourself as the Fisherman (Billy Carter), First Love (Andrea Goss), and then the Second Love (Jasmine Batchelor). Their habitat, a small cabin on the cliffs above the river, where we meet initially Fisherman and First Love, discussing their day of fly fishing, of trying to catch fish and eventually each other. As the tale unfolds it becomes quite clear that all is not as it truly appears. Love is fleeting, as in a “Twilight Zone” mist, First Love is replaced by Second Love, with this scenario then re-repeating itself throughout this 80 minute production.
The words of THE RIVER are engrossing – I must admit that The River is one of those productions where though lyrical in conversation, you are constantly listening to every singular word, searching for some hidden meaning, so engrossed in the ebb and flow of the exchanges between characters. Butterworth’s is indeed a poet of words – fluidic words, searching this river of where we’ve been and where we are destined to go- ultimately in search of love.
The River is a story that repeats with various rituals, the cutting of the fish, the red gown drawn in reflecting waters, such supernatural undertones, yet in a endless search for love, of tortured souls and consumed with a never ending search in finding one’s true love. Yet Fisherman is constantly running afoul of his many loves and destined to repeat those same rituals as his grandfather did in the same cabin by the river – or was it his grandfather? – stop by THE RIVER and let me know what you think!
Major kudos to Director Rob Ruggerio, whatever he touches is golden – you can tell this production is a labor of love for Rob- you did good! Our three leads, Billy Carter, Jasmine Batchelor and Andrea Goss, make this production a lean forward in your seat, hand to chin occasion – as stated you literally don’t want to miss one syllable of their missives – great job all. By the way loved the English accents, I understand famed actress and HARTT Professor, Johanna Morrison assisted in this production as the Dialect Coach. This River is indeed flowing, please make time to see this fascinating tale before it ripples away. Enjoy.
“The River“ is currently being produced at TheaterWorks, City Arts on Pearl, 233 Pearl Street, Hartford, CT. For tickets or info please call TheaterWorks at 860.527.7838.
Howard Steven Frydman is General Manager and Executive Director of BATV – Channels 5, 95 & 96 and a member of the CCC. Please feel free to contact Mr. Frydman with your thoughts and ideas at firstname.lastname@example.org