BWW Review: RIVER DITTY: AN AMERICAN FOLKTALE at Virginia Repertory Theatre (World Premiere)
For the past several years, Virginia Repertory Theatre has produced one world premiere of a new play or musical. Last year's award-winning THE END OF WAR by David L. Robbins was theatre at its very finest, with incredible special effects, set design and a gorgeous book by Robbins. While River Ditty's story could benefit from some tightening, some exceptional performances make this an enjoyable production. Richmond audiences should jump at the opportunity to see yet another fresh new play.
In this dark and adventurous new play by Matthew Mooney Keuter, Arlo (Matt Polson) and Sunshine (Katrinah Carol Lewis) are siblings, though not by blood, running away from their disturbing home. Arlo's father, Atticus Dye (Bostin Christopher), runs a "gentlemen's club" of sorts with Lily (Wendy Carter). Arlo and Sunshine escape to a cabin in the woods where they meet Harlan (Jonathan Brent Burgard) and the local sheriff, Owen (Alexander Sapp). Keuter's dialogue throughout is beautiful, but the story loses focus of the point it is trying to make.
The design of the show is simple yet effective. Craig Napoliello's set, Sue Griffin's costumes, BJ Wilkinson's lighting and Derek Dumais' sound all work well together. Nathaniel Shaw guides some impressive performances, but could have tightened Keuter's innumerable scene changes that feel better fit for the screen than the stage.
As Arlo, Matt Polson plays well to the more sensitive and creative characteristics of the peculiar and (probably) gay son of Atticus. Katrinah Carol Lewis gives a heartbreaking performance as Sunshine, the "daughter" who was gifted to Atticus. Jonathan Brent Burgard gives a subtle but powerful performance as Harlan. Bostin Christopher is perfectly cast as the powerful and short-tempered Atticus. Scott Wichmann disappears into the distorted and maniacal character of Toe.
It's Alexander Sapp's comic timing and polished performance as the subtly-racist sheriff, Owen, who makes this lengthy production so entertaining.
Virginia Repertory Theatre's production of RIVER DITTY runs through May 6.