Those making the trip to American Players Theatre in Spring Green, Wisconsin in order to take in a week or weekend of theater may choose to forgo this production in favor of better offerings by the repertory company. “The River Bride,” by Marisela Treviño Orta, takes on the trappings of folktale set in the Brazilian Amazon.
It tells the story of a river dolphin that emerges on land every year for three days as a nattily dressed young man with a bandage around his head, presumably to disguise his blowhole. Within his short time as a biped, he must fall in love with a pure-hearted woman, coax love from said woman and marry her. Failure in the tasks dooms him to another year of solitude in the river. The production makes much of how love depends on trust, even when one must trust a mythical marine mammal. There may be a lot to work with there, and perhaps some comedy to wring out of the dolphin-out-of-water tale. Missed opportunities all. The message of “The River Bride” never develops beyond its simple premise and the proceedings grow stale.
What’s more, the Brazilian setting is botched in this production. The characters’ accents and intonations never ring as convincingly grounded in Brazilian Portuguese. Instead, we get misplaced and stagey sing-songy versions of Spanglish-inflected English. It’s said that if one doesn’t see bad theater, one isn’t seeing enough good theater. There ought to be a corollary for producing organizations. Weak shows are inevitable at excellent and ambitious companies. This year APT is offering several stunningly good shows. This one is a miss.
“The River Bride” at American Players Theatre, 5950 Golf Course Road, Spring Green, Wisconsin, (608)588-2361, americanplayers.org. Through September 30.