Monthly Archive for: ‘June, 2016’

The River Bride – a World Premier

Tis Better to Give or to Receive?

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2016. The River Bride by Marisela Trevino Orta. Directed by Laurie Woolery. Scenic Design: Mariana Sanchez. Costume Design: Raquel Barreto. Lighting Design: David Weiner. Video an dProjections Design: Mark Holthusen. Photo: Jenny Graham.

From upper left: Jaime Ann Romero, Triney Sandoval, Nancy Rodriguez, Carlo Alban, Vilma Silva, Armando McClain. Photo: Jenny Graham.

 

Marisela Treviño Orta’s “The River Bride” is a story told in the magic realism style, about two sisters who live in a small village in Brazil. Both have a history with the same young man, whom the younger is about to marry, and both become enamored with a stranger who has been recovered from the murky waters of the Amazon by their father and the younger sister’s intended. Although the sisters love one another, their personalities are chalk and cheese. The older is diffident, always deferring to the younger, who is insatiable – taking whatever she can grasp and wanting whatever she can’t. This yearning included stealing the older sister’s boyfriend who became her fiancé, and now she longs for the stranger fished from the depths.

 

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2016. The River Bride by Marisela Trevino Orta. Directed by Laurie Woolery. Scenic Design: Mariana Sanchez. Costume Design: Raquel Barreto. Lighting Design: David Weiner. Video an dProjections Design: Mark Holthusen. Photo: Jenny Graham.

Nancy Rodriguez, Armando McClain, Jamie Ann Romero. Photo: Jenny Graham.

This morality parable charms with its slow rhythms and tales of the heartbeat of the jungle. The staging is at one time simple with only a stick-figure house on stilts and a pier bedecking the stage. But the backdrop is a curved curtain against which mostly shadow projections allow the viewer’s imagination to take in the details of the exotic local providing a rich rendering of the water and the land. Occasional exacting mime movement by characters, such as casting invisible nets or stirring the river’s unseen waters with their hands, add to the effect.

The play’s characters are alive with their existential issues and day-to-day acts of little consequence that are common to most people. A universal familiarity pervades. Nonetheless, the eloquence of some expression and dialogue is incongruous with the desolate and limited experience of the inhabitants. The fairy tale aspect promoted by the revelation of a local myth concerning a river dolphin adds a soupcon of mystery and expectancy.

 

The pace is of the action is languid, and Director Laurie Woolery handles it well. The portrayals are apt, with Nancy Rodrigues as the noble and put upon Helena, and Jamie Ann Romero as her self indulgent sister. In the lesser roles of the mother and father, Vilma Silva and Triney Sandoval are particularly effective. While not totally compelling for those who seek heightened activity, this drama has enough heart and provocation about the benefits and drawbacks of being givers and takers in life to deserve the play goer’s attention.

The Oregon Shakespeare Festival. 2016. The River Bride by Marisela Trevino Orta. Directed by Laurie Woolery. Scenic Design: Mariana Sanchez. Costume Design: Raquel Barreto. Lighting Design: David Weiner. Video an dProjections Design: Mark Holthusen. Photo: Jenny Graham.

Carlo Alban, Triney Sandoval. Photo: Jenny Graham.

“The River Bride” plays at Oregon Shakespeare Festival’s Angus Bowmer Theatre, Ashland, OR, through July 7. OSF is a premier theater company, founded in 1935. Operating three theaters totaling over 2,100 seats, overall attendance in 2015 exceeded 390,000, representing 87% of capacity. Among its awards, OSF has received the coveted Tony in 1983 for outstanding achievement in regional theater and in 2014 for best play for its commission “All the Way.”

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