The New Classic Romance: OSF’s River Bride Tells a Story We Can Relate To, And Learn From
Not to be sappy, but as I settled into my seat and began my quick analysis, River Bride quickly took me by surprise—much like love at first sight. Yikes, am I in Junior High again, I wonder? I leaned forward, determined to get to the bottom of this romance story. As the story unfolded, I thought, It is like Romeo and Juliet. No, it is like Eros and Psyche. No, it is like Cinderella. As I tried to classify the play, I found that it continued to enchant me, typically not a romantic. So, I sat back and enjoyed the show.
River Bride is the tale of two sisters (but no, not like Frozen) in a small village on the Amazon River—the younger eager to get away, and the older, Helena, seemingly content. The younger, Belmira, is to be married to their childhood friend in three days when a stranger is rescued by their father and her fiancé from the River. His mysterious appearance and surprising demeanor intrigues the entire family and community. Rumors swirl, old wives tales are repeated, emotions rise and yet, the mighty Amazon keeps on flowing. At the conclusion of the tale, I left with a mixed sense of hope and foreboding when it comes to love.
Enhancing the drama of the experience even more, was the presence of several tour buses of high schoolers in the audience. At the first on stage costume change, deafening ripples of giggles drowned out the pleasant noises of the lapping waters of the Amazon. Greater still was their reactions to declarations of love and or admissions of dislike in the story, marked by gasps and mutterings of “OMG!” Though, as I braced myself for similar reactions in seemingly equal moments of tension, remarkable silence was noted. Upon later review with my viewing counterpart (oddly enough, my mother), we came to the conclusion that the youth in the audience reacted audibly to the emotional experiences of their “favorite” characters, and not the “unpopular” ones. Interesting. Hopefully viewers, young and old, took away the wisdom of the saga.
The humble but effective set much also be mentioned. Gone are the days of the roll-of-wallpaper backgrounds dropping from the ceiling behind the actors to set the scene on stage. River Bride perfected the use of projections on a white curtain, curved in a convex semicircle, so as a fishing boat drifted down the Amazon, the night sky floated with it. The minimalistic, yet functional stage gave the impression of simple, practical living, leaving ample room on the stage and in one’s mind for the unfolding drama.
1:30 pm and 8 pm, through July 7
Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 15 S. Pioneer Street, Ashland
$30 – $108
I’m astonished that the reviewer found the noisy children in the audience an enhancement to this play. The performance I saw was nearly ruined by squealing girls and jackass laughs from the boys. OSF needs to curb these immature antics before adult playgoers give up paying premium prices to sit in a rowdy classroom.