SHORT CASTS MAKE ‘THE RIVER’ FLOW.
True anglers know that fly fishing requires a vast amount of finesse. Beyond the rudimentary skills of rigging and manipulating the rod and line, a knowledge of entomology, the ability to read currents, and possession of an adventurous spirit—and physical stamina—come in handy. To be consistently successful, however, it is less about the long-line efforts of Brad Pitt in “A River Runs Through It” and more about short, repetitive casts over familiar water that will consistently land a trophy trout.
Familiar water is exactly what the Man (Joe Lino), one of the three unnamed characters in Jez Butterworth’s 2012 play “The River,” keeps returning to: a remote English fishing cabin in the woods. A man. A woman. Another woman. How many women have been in this place before? “Do you really want to know?”
For the Woman (Christina Gorman) and the Other Woman (Chelsee Carter) in this intriguing 65-minute character study, now playing in BoHo Theatre’s Chicago premiere and expertly directed by Jerrell L. Henderson, the lure of the remote location seems to be enough to get them there. What happens next and how these relationships unfold is up to the one who is at home in his—or her—native environment. You could say that there is a lot of angling going on, inside and out.
The Man, having first discovered the thrills of the river and the excitement of the catch as a 7-year old boy, alternates between sharing the story of his early aquatic conquests and the poetry in his life with his audience of one. There is complexity in each of Butterworth’s characters; we understand that our passionate attraction to one another can be brief and fleeting, and can often leave an empty void in its wake.
Henderson has assembled a fine cast. Lino’s youthful, ruddy enthusiasm alternates between endearing and diabolical, which plays well with the sizzling essence of confidence that Gorman infuses into her role. Carter, meanwhile, brings a wholesome sensitivity and balance to the Other Woman.
The production team—led by Eric Luchen (set), Caitlin McLeod (costumes), Kaili Story (lighting) and Eric Backus (sound)—creates a rich, rustic and earthy atmosphere that complements the mysterious aspects of the work, which, after wading carefully through all the questions of love and loss posed in Butterworth’s absorbing play, may leave you thinking, as every angler does, about the one that got away.