BWW Review: Arizona Theatre Company Presents THE RIVER BRIDE
In Marisela Treviño Orta's THE RIVER BRIDE, the order and apparent tranquility of life in a fishing village on the Amazon is disrupted by an unexpected visitor. In the wake of his arrival, two sisters of markedly different temperaments are compelled to confront their assumptions, aspirations, and choices. In the telling of this story, the poet/playwright has adopted a piece of the region's folklore as her metaphor ~ the fable of a boto , a river dolphin, that every June surfaces as a man for three days during which he must find a wife or return to the river.
In Arizona Theatre Company's reprise of the work that it first honored four years ago with its National Latino Playwriting Award, director Kinan Valdez conveys Orta's allegory into a vivid sensory experience. Gifted with a choreographic sensibility, he masterfully marries the emotions of the characters with the mood of their environs. Whether it's a sudden downpour, a curtain of tropical foliage, or the changing tones of the river, David Lee Cuthbert's projections and Emiliano Valdez's sound effects create a lush and seductive frame for the action on the stage.
Against this backdrop and along the pier from which she feeds the fish, one sister, Helena (Sarita Ocón), goes with the flow, modestly and self-effacingly submitting to the quotidian rituals of village life but nevertheless indulging in romantic flights of fancy. In contrast, Belmira (Paula Rebelo) swims against the current of convention and trusts that a loveless marriage to Duarte (Sean Burgos) will be her ticket to the good life. Playing the role of the dutiful mother, Senora Costa, who wants only the best for both, is Dena Martinez. Enter Moises (Hugo Carbajal), rescued from the river by the girls' father, Señor Costa (Leandro Cano), and whose attentions are immediately (and with an urgency appropriate to the boto's schedule) directed to Helena. All bets are off as envious Belmira, for whom no blessings are ever enough, considers Moises a better catch, even if it's at the expense of her sibling's good fortune.
There's an artistry to Valdez's direction as he moves Orta's characters through a dreamlike voyage to a destination that has its own bank of ironies and in whose wake an audience may espy familiar reflections.
THE RIVER BRIDE runs through December 3rd at the Herberger Theater Center in Phoenix.
Photo credit to Tim Fuller