Ashland Review: The River Bride

Mar 15, 2016

Nancy Rodriguez and Jamie Ann Romero
Credit Jennie Graham

Who would have dreamed that a theater company in remote Ashland, Oregon, so far from New York, would be sending shows to Broadway and major theaters across the country?
The Oregon Shakespeare Festival, now in its 81st year, is renowned for producing not only all of Shakespeare’s plays, but for developing new works that will likely stand the test of time.
One of those new plays is “The River Bride” by young poet-playwright Marisela Treviño Orta. This enchanting fairy tale inspired by Brazilian folklore takes place in a small village on the Amazon.
Two sisters, daughters of a fisherman, have different expectations of love. Helena wants a steady husband who will stay in the village, close to the comfort of family and the beauty of nature. Her younger sister Belmira can hardly wait to go to a city and lead a modern life.
Just before Belmira’s wedding to Duarte, a young fisherman of the village, her father pulls a man out of the river. The man, Moises, doesn’t remember what happened. Dressed in a fine white suit, he seems sensitive and intelligent. And a current like lightening runs between him and quiet Helena.
But Belmira believes he is meant for her, and she usually gets what she wants. The mysterious Moises has his own desperate goal.
As directed by Laura Woolery, “The River Bride” weaves a delicate spell with its lush tropical set, rhythmic music, lyrical language and endearing characters.
Nancy Rodriguez offers us a warm but shy Helena. Jamie Ann Romero’s Belmira selfishly uses the power of her beauty and grace, but she means no harm. Vilma Silva and Triney Sandoval as their parents give proof of love’s endurance.
Armando McClain as Moises has an inscrutable aura - is he man or changeling? And Carlo Albán is an insecure but honorable Duarte.
In this poignant, surprising tale, all the characters learn, or have learned, that true love requires a leap of faith, but not all are capable of that leap.