THE RIVER

wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/25/14 at 04:13pm
I just read Jez Butterworth's play, THE RIVER. I need to complain. Loudly.

It is fewer than 45 pages, and took exactly 30 minutes to read, including re-reading certain sections to make sure I understood what was going on. This has to be the shortest play ever produced, unless it is padded with musical interludes, or something. Or paired with another one act play, as they did in Victorian times.

The characters do not have names. THE MAN. THE WOMAN. THE OTHER WOMAN. Okay. Trying to keep it universal? It is set in rural England (or possibly, but not probably, rural America). Is Jez just too damn lazy to find a name? Or is he afraid that might endanger the consistently two-dimensional nature of his people?

Why is this part attractive to the likes of Hugh Jackman? Because he will have five hours off on two-show days? Because it was cheap? Because he figures if Mark Rylance can get a Tony doing Jez' work, maybe he can, too?

I don't get this play. It is like some final exam in an online writing seminar. Someone tell me that there is some "there" there. Even JERUSALEM (which I thought over-rated) at least felt like a solid piece of theater. This has the power of reading the classifieds.

Call me bewildered.
somethingwicked
Broadway Legend
joined:5/27/05
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/25/14 at 06:11pm
FYI, the play ran 80 minutes when it was done at the Royal Court in London.
Tonya Pinkins: Then we had a "Lot's Wife" last June that was my personal favorite. I'm still trying to get them to let me sing it at some performance where we get to sing an excerpt that's gone.
Tony Kushner: You can sing it at my funeral.
AC126748
Broadway Legend
joined:7/15/06
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/25/14 at 06:20pm
What's with this seemingly recent trend of equating a work's worth with its length?
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
CapnHook
Broadway Legend
joined:5/12/03
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/25/14 at 07:11pm
By all means, you are entitled to your opinions of the work on paper. But remember, even the worst pieces of playwrighting can be produced into masterful works of stagecraft.

Let's see what he does with it before judging his decision to do the play. (I, for one, am pleased that an A-list movie star is doing an ORIGINAL work, rather than a revival.)
"The Spectacle has, indeed, an emotional attraction of its own, but, of all the parts, it is the least artistic, and connected least with the art of poetry. For the power of Tragedy, we may be sure, is felt even apart from representation and actors. Besides, the production of spectacular effects depends more on the art of the stage machinist than on that of the poet."
--Aristotle
Smaxie
Broadway Legend
joined:9/26/05
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/25/14 at 10:25pm
You sound like the type of person who yells at an impressionist painting for being too diffuse.
Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop.
Borstalboy
Broadway Legend
joined:2/9/04
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/25/14 at 10:38pm
Suggestion to OP: Stay away from Albee, Beckett, and Pinter.
"It's now rather very common to hear people say 'I'm rather offended by that'. As if that gives them certain rights. It's actually nothing more than a whine. It has no meaning, no purpose. It has no reason to be respected as a phrase. 'I am offended by that'. Well, so f**king what?"--Stephen Fry
mamaleh
Broadway Star
joined:5/11/04
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/26/14 at 12:46am
Hugh J. has gone on record as saying he liked the material. He has also expressed a preference in recent years for original works rather than revivals. Those criteria have been met.
Vespertine1228
Broadway Legend
joined:10/30/05
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/26/14 at 01:22am
There are a small handful of film stars who make consistent Broadway appearances, but Hugh Jackman is the only one I can think of who has gone out of his way to appear in new work. I think it's very admirable.

The Realistic Joneses is proof that producers are willing to take on risky material if major names are involved. I think we should be encouraging people like Denzel Washington and Scarlett Johansson to do new work instead of revivals of the same old shows over and over again.
wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
THE RIVER
Posted: 5/26/14 at 11:45am
It is because I appreciate Beckett and Pinter that I am so disappointed. I don't mind short plays that actually go somewhere or give me something to think about (RED was quite short, for example.). How this one manages to be 80 minutes astounds me, although the atmosphere is really another "character" in many of the scenes.

And I love impressionist paintings, too. I don't require anything close to realism (I loved EXIT THE KING in production) but this feels like a bag (a small bag) of tricks, which Pinter and Beckett avoid by giving you the sense of a reason to watch.

Has anyone else read the play? It does not come off the page at all well.

I will go see it, of course - just as I did with JERUSALEM, but I love reading a play that feels like it could be read as well as produced. I enjoy both ways of "experiencing" a play, so maybe I am holding a lot of modern work to too high a standard.