The air is bright with festivity in this fishing village as a family prepares for a wedding. Of course, there's still preparations to be made — the dress needs last minute alterations, and the fish still need to be caught for the banquet. And what wedding would be complete without family drama? In The River Bride, we discover how deep the two sisters’ love lives intertwine, with a hint of magic tossed in.
American Players Theatre South American Scene
All our senses activate as we enter the Touchstone Theatre. It feels as though we’re venturing deep into the Amazon rainforest. A long dock winds itself around the center of the stage. A river could be rushing beneath its worn planks. Long vines and plant trellis hang from the backdrop. Blue, purple, and low lights make it feel like we’re beneath a dense canopy.
Two men climb into the rowboat tied to the dock and push off, presumedly to go cast their nets and fish. Three women follow, walking out on the dock to do the chores for the day. One sits on the edge and looks off into the distance. The other carries a laundry basket on her hip, dutifully following her mother. Just from this opening scene, we feel we already have a look into the family dynamic.
Diving Deeper into the Family
On the surface, it seems the two daughters have a typical sister relationship. The older, Helena (Melisa Pereya), is the dependable one. The younger, Belmira (Gabriela Castillo) is the dreamer. However, we slowly come to discover there’s more history behind their relationship and what’s motivating them. It surprises us as we think we have them all figured out.
Other mysteries also unravel as the family pulls a strange man from the river. Assuming he’s just a man fallen from a boat, the Costa family invite Moises (Ronald Román-Meléndez) to stay as long as he needs. Like Helena, we fall for his charm and honest way of speaking. He might be just what she needs to open her heart again. As we fall further and further under his spell, our hope begins to rise that things will work out.
Our actors draw us further into their relationships. Triney Sandoval as Senor Costa literally lifts Erica Cruz Hernandez from her feet in joy and demands she dance with her husband. Castillo craftily finds ways to get her way as Belmira. And as Pereya sits alone on the dock, we feel her need for solitude after revealing her heartbreak before the wedding.
Holding Our Breath
Many times, the theater stills and you could hear a pin drop as moments unfold and this mysterious man interacts with the family. He dips his feet into the river and laughs loudly, claiming he can feel its different stories, the exact same way Senor Costa did only moments before. They clasp hands, and the lights change suddenly to a deep purple. The sound cuts and we still. It feels like time stops as we take a beat to absorb what is happening.
These still moments grow more pronounced as he courts Helena. A similar beat occurs when they first touch hands. Later, as he drapes a pearl necklace around her neck, our breath stills as she lifts her hair and their hands meet. Slowly, they turn toward each other, and we feel their connection palpitating off the stage.
The River Bride is full of magical moments as we suspend our disbelief deep in the Amazon rainforest. We feel hopeful at new loveand anguish at sisterly arguments. We tense as things reach a climactic end.
The River Bride is a good fit for those who love shows about legends, myths, and ones filled to the brim with family drama.
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Written by Marisela Treviño Orta
Directed by Robert Ramirez
Assistant Director: Marilet Martinez
Costume Design: Haydee Zelideth
Scenic Design: Regina García
Lighting Design: Jesse Klug
Sound Design & Original Music: Brandon Reed
Assistant Costume Designer: Jeannette Christensen
Stage Manager: Terry Anne Ciofalo
Stage Manager: Jacqueline Singleton
June 17 - September 30, 2022
American Players Theatre
5950 Golf Course Road
Spring Green, WI 53588
For more information and tickets visit the American Players Theatre website.
Photos: Liz Lauren
About the Author: Alexis Bugajski
Alexis is a theater reviewer, travel bug, media specialist, and burger & beer enthusiast. During the day she works in the advertising business as a senior communications designer. When night falls, or when she can escape to New York, she’s hitting the theaters to see as many shows as she can. And whenever she’s not at her desk or in the audience, she’s out seeking the best burger and beer offerings in Chicago.
Editor's Note: Click here to read more Picture this Post articles by Alexis Bugajski