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.
jo
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/28/14 at 07:47pm
Brief review of the London staging written by Matt Wolf for The New York Times --

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/10/31/arts/31iht-lon31.html?pagewanted=all&_r=1&

>>>Mr. Butterworthís first play since ďJerusalemĒ in 2009 seared its way into the collective English cultural conscience, winning leading man Mark Rylance a second Tony Award along the way, ďThe RiverĒ provides a contrast in almost every way. This one takes place in a single continuous act, not three, and traffics in silence rather than making a furious noise. What it shares with its predecessor is a belief in the numinous and in personalities that defy ready analysis. One exits the theater asking questions, and enriched.

Itís perhaps best to regard this as only an interim report on what is sure to be the first of many experiences of this play and of Ian Ricksonís characteristically empathic staging of it. The tiny playing space seats a scant 93, and so intense has been demand that the Court is selling tickets only on the day, either online or in-person at the box office. Letís just say that any effort to get in is abundantly repaid.

The pleasures begin with a bearded Mr. West playing (brilliantly) a sensualist and aesthete who inhabits a remote cabin near which runs the river of the title, as heard at the start and during scene changes. But just as waterways rarely follow a straight path, neither does a play that gradually accrues in pain and deception, self-directed as much as not, though to say much more would spoil the skin-prickling finish, which prompts a reconsideration of all that has gone before. I canít wait to see it again. <<<<


I have read the play three times and it was on the third time when what Matt Wolf has written clicked with me ( especially re "the skin-prickling finish, which prompts a reconsideration of all that has gone before"). There was also a twist that I did not actually comprehend until the third time around.

Also, the official site of the Broadway staging is listed at 90 minutes ( compared to the 80 minutes mentioned from the London reviews) - have there been some revisions on the play?





Updated On: 8/28/14 at 07:47 PM
mjohnson2
Broadway Star
joined:11/2/13
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/28/14 at 08:24pm
I agree kind of. I think that Mr. Butterworth thinks he is a better writer than he actually is, and that creates some issues in his work. With THE RIVER he tries his hand at abstract theatre and the problem is not that it's bad, but that there are so many better examples of abstract theatre out there (Beckett, Pinter, Williams when he got older) that this play seems unnecessary.
Anything regarding shows stated by this account is an attempt to convey opinion and not fact.
Matt Rogers
Broadway Star
joined:10/4/04
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/28/14 at 08:41pm
"Also, the official site of the Broadway staging is listed at 90 minutes ( compared to the 80 minutes mentioned from the London reviews) - have there been some revisions on the play? "

I assume they will start 10 minutes late each night and call it 90 minutes.
rjm516
Broadway Star
joined:6/24/09
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/28/14 at 08:55pm
^ lololol
skylight2
Understudy
joined:6/13/14
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/28/14 at 09:16pm
So I assume you're also going to complain about "Constellations" which is a 70-minute play.
wonkit
Broadway Legend
joined:9/30/08
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/29/14 at 10:16am
If you actually read my original post, it questioned the length but also the fact that it seemed short AND empty. I have enjoyed short evenings in the theater (I cited RED), but only when something happens in the short interval of the play. I have my ticket to this, will read it again before November. And I have no knowledge of "Constellations."

I like mjohnson2's take - that Butterworth thinks he is a better writer than he is. He is staging something in his mind, but perhaps not quite getting it down on paper. I don't for a moment question that playwriting is far more difficult in so many ways than any other writing.

Isn't there a maple syrup called Butterworth's?
Borstalboy
Broadway Legend
joined:2/9/04
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/30/14 at 04:48pm
This is the most basic bitch thread in some time.
"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
GreasedLightning
Featured Actor
joined:2/11/14
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/30/14 at 05:04pm
HAHAHA.
Bettyboy72
Broadway Legend
joined:3/31/06
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/31/14 at 05:17pm
No offense, but you have only read the script. Theatre, by its definition, is in the staging-how everything comes together to create the experience. It's way too early to be ranting.
"The sexual energy between the mother and son really concerns me!"-random woman behind me at Next to Normal "I want to meet him after and bang him!"-random woman who exposed her breasts at Rock of Ages, referring to James Carpinello
Mr Roxy
Broadway Legend
joined:5/17/03
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/31/14 at 05:54pm
I would say, if the script is deadly dull only a magician could make it work. Remember 3 days of Rain. The length does play a part in it. To pay astronomical prices simply because Jackman is in it does not seem to make sense. Mrs R wants to see it but she is resigned to the fact that it probably will not happen

Years ago, we saw Pacino in Hughie. It was not even an hour long and we did feel cheated. To each his own. If the short length does not bother you great. Our friend saw it in London and was bored out of his mind.
Cynicism is an unpleasant way of saying the truth - Lillian Hellman.
chrisampm2
Broadway Star
joined:5/26/07
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/31/14 at 05:57pm
Mr Roxy, I don't know which 3 Days of Rain production you saw. The Broadway version did seem dull to me. But the original MTC production is one of my most treasured theater experiences. John Slattery and Patricia Clarkson were charming and ultimately so moving. Loved it. And that proves the point that theater can make magical what might seem, to some, empty on the page.
Sutton Ross
Broadway Legend
joined:7/20/13
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/31/14 at 06:45pm
The only good part about Three Days of Rain was Bradley Cooper. He proved to be a brilliant stage actor. The rest was crap and I think most people know it. They only paid the prices to be in the same room as Julia Roberts.
mamaleh
Broadway Star
joined:5/11/04
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/31/14 at 08:45pm
Yes, Cooper was good. But so was Paul Rudd. They both acted the proverbial rings around the stiff and uninteresting Roberts.
jo
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
THE RIVER
Posted: 8/31/14 at 08:51pm
I wasn't familiar with their work before THREE DAYS OF RAIN but I found Paul Rudd to be the more engaging actor, although I agree that Bradley Cooper's acting was better than the bland Julia. Julia did improve in the second act.
jo
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
THE RIVER
Posted: 9/1/14 at 07:36pm
It looks like he's getting ready for THE RIVER --


Hugh Jackman @RealHughJackman ∑ 15h

Going .... http://instagram.com/p/sZYUu9ihGQ/



Hugh Jackman @RealHughJackman ∑ 11h

Gone.... http://instagram.com/p/sZwbysChAQ/



Hugh was filming an origin story of Peter Pan called PAN and he plays the main villain Blackbeard, hence the bald head and the facial hair.

Updated On: 9/1/14 at 07:36 PM
jo
Broadway Legend
joined:5/15/03
THE RIVER
Posted: 9/1/14 at 09:05pm
And Hugh shares some of his thoughts on THE RIVER, in a multi-topic interview with VULTURE --

http://www.vulture.com/2014/08/hugh-jackman-fly-fishes-his-way-to-the-river.html


>>>Well, people certainly go insane when you sing and dance. When you do something like Back on Broadway that gets such a huge reaction, does it make you want to do something in the opposite direction ó like this play ó next?

I donít know if I think that way actually. Certainly, in general I miss theater and want to get back more to that, but weirdly I'm enjoying film more and I think acting in general more now. There is a high when a musical is working; when youíre onstage singing in front of a crowd, the applause is very visceral, itís ultimately an emotional response. The drug of that kind of audience enthusiasm is one Iíd be reluctant to let go of. But I think whatís driving me now more than anything is to do new material. I get really excited to go and see a play or musical I know nothing about ó like I saw Fun Home recently, that thrilled me. I obviously like revivals, too, but itís hard to get your mind or part of your mind away from comparisons. Thereís a great joy in discovering new material...




What was your first meeting with Jez Butterworth like? Heís this strange combination of being a dark playwright who also writes blockbuster movies .

Jez is very kind of ... he has a demeanor of someone whoís like, ďOh, gee, thanks for inviting me to lunch.Ē Iím like, man! You wrote this incredible play! Heís very off the back foot. One of the first things I asked him was what motivated him to write this story ó because I was really affected by the story emotionally, which doesnít always happen. And he said he wanted to give goosebumps. Itís mysterious, you donít know whatís happening next, youíre not 100 percent sure where the actors or the writer is going to go to the point where it gives you goosebumps. But I just loved that he has a childís quality, of being very curious, very humble.




Did you see Jerusalem?

I thought that was extraordinary. And again, it was one of those rare experiences where you walk in not knowing what to expect and, wow, youíre completely transported and blown away. I got the sense thereís that possibility with this play as well. But I actually think theyíre very different. I think he deliberately wanted to write something quite different; ours is much shorter, like 89 minutes. In Jerusalem, Rooster is a very bombastic, larger-than-life character. This is not like that, itís in a way like a piece of chamber music; itís more subtle, thereís a poetic edge to it, though I think Jerusalem had that too. Thereís obviously a love of poetry in Jezís blood. But that also hooks into his love of fishing! That is something I knew nothing about, and I'm learning a hell of a lot about fly fishing.



I was going to say, fishing is rather central to the play, are you an outdoorsman of any sort?

Well Iím a mad lover of the outdoors, but I didnít grow up with fishing. My son is madly into it, so Iím happy now to go out with him. Iím in a bit of trouble because I took him to Montana in March and said, you know, letís fly fish, itíll be a father son trip, but come October heís going to realize it was a research trip. Iíll make it a few months before I get slapped around a bit.





It seems like a very oddly Zen thing, fly fishing?

Itís an extraordinary kind of endeavor, very human ó how to take something thatís really about survival and make it harder than it has to be. [Laughs.] There is a beauty to it; itís really becoming one with the fish, understanding the fish, how to seduce them to the end of your line. How to catch something without any bait, thereís something really beautiful about it. Jez has used it both literally and metaphorically in the play. It is sensual, I should say. Everyone who does it talks about how their mind goes blank, itís like a form of meditation. And the people who do it, itís like a drug to them ó youíre connected to something very elemental in nature, and I think thatís what the play explores.



The play does have a quietness about it ó is keeping things at that kind of level a challenge for you?

Yeah. Maybe Iíve done too many action movies. But there are no explosions, I guarantee ó no shirts come off, Iím pretty sure. [Laughs.] No, it is different in every way. Itís the kind of play I havenít seen in a long period of time. Literally from the moment it opens, youíre brought into a world where the audience will feel almost uncomfortable to be there ó itís very private, very interior. It really asks, when you find someone in life, are we actually just trying to recapture something weíve lost, or is it real. The play twists and turns a lot, but in a very subtle, quiet, mysterious way. Iím excited about being in a play with that kind of calm, and requires you to sort of calmly let go of your life and connect with the play. And the fact that weíre doing it in the round? Itís going to be very intimate.<<<<








Updated On: 9/3/14 at 09:05 PM