Review: “The River Bride” lures you into a mysterious world
At this time of year, when the days draw in and darkness seems to lurk around every corner, there’s something very appealing about fairy tales. “The River Bride” is a good example of a story that lures you away from normal life into a mysterious world where nothing is quite what it seems, yet nothing is threatening. 6th Street Playhouse”s production of this piece of Brazilian folklore offers audiences a gently absorbing evening.
A young man is pulled from the river by a fisherman who lives in a small village on the banks of the mighty Amazon. The stranger, Moises (Terrance Smith), wears a bandage around his head but appears unharmed by his experience. The fisherman, Sr. Costa (Daniel Villalva), brings Moises home to his wife (Jannely Calmell) and introduces him to his two daughters. One, Belmira (Bethany Regan), is preparing for her upcoming wedding to Duarte (Lorenzo Alviso), while the other, Helena (Lauren DePass), is still unmarried. Both young women are immediately intrigued by the handsome Moises, with complicated and ultimately tragic consequences.
Under the assured direction of veteran director Marty Pistone, this old-as-time story carries you with it like a boat floating downstream. As with all good fairy tales, it echoes countless other stories – the lovers in “A Midsummer Night”s Dream” came forcibly to mind – as the lovers cross and recross paths, beset by dreams and desires and misunderstandings. Regan brings vivacity to Belmira, contrasting nicely with the more muted and thoughtful Helena. At the same time, Alviso convincingly plays the suspicious lover, and Smith as Moises is both appealing and increasingly urgent as everything starts to unravel.
Giulio Caesare Perrone has designed an exceptional set for this romantic tale of loss and love, complemented by wonderful sound design (Ben Roots) that constantly reminds you of the powerful presence of the river. The use of shadow projection (designed by Patrick Nims) creates a genuinely moving scene between Villalva and Calmell. At the same time, costume designer Pamela Johnson’s decision to dress the cast in pristine white enhances the unreal quality of the world they inhabit. The curious mix of real props and imaginary objects was less effective; especially in such an intimate space, less solidity and more suggestion would work better for this dreamlike piece. That cavil aside, “The River Bride” is a poetic experience, with original music by Nate Riebli that adds to our sense that, for one brief evening, we” ve all been transported somewhere very far from here.
Audiences should be aware that this production uses strobe lights.
“The River Bride” plays at 6th Street Playhouse, Santa Rosa, until November 27. The approximate run time is 1 hour 45 mins, including a 15-minute intermission. Show times and tickets at https://6thstreetplayhouse.com/