Still the River Runs
play by Barton Bishop
Bloomington Playwrights Project
May 20-June 4, 2011
Still the River Runs at the Bloomington Playwrights Project is a modest play.
There are just three characters: a pair of brothers and the enshrouded body of their grandfather. The older brother, Jesse, is a frustrated young redneck whose shotgun marriage to a woman that he doesn’t love has left him with two bothersome sons, a job he hates, and a locker full of things he can’t use or pay for.
The younger brother, Wyatt, is an army sniper who’s done too many tours, and had too much time to grapple with those larger questions of life that overwhelm his intelligent but undereducated mind. Both the brothers are talkative young men with a lot of history, which both joins and separates them.
They’re stealing the body of their grandfather from the family’s funeral to take him for burial in the woods that the three loved. The body is a silent, but progressively heavier center for their journey.
Frankly, I’m still chewing over my reactions to Still the River Runs. It’s presented in short scenes with enigmatically puzzling titles. It took awhile for me to get involved, and from time to time the breaks and titles pulled me away. That said, this is a play with a lot of depth.
The relationship of the brothers is fascinating, as are the discoveries that the audience makes along with them. There are tantalizing hints about the past that has brought them into their respective manhoods. There are dramatic, sad, ironic and downright funny moments of insight and sharing.
Gabe Gloden plays Jesse, a complex part that swings dramatically from confident braggadocio to guilty doubt, with lots of stops in between. He does a solid job. Daniel Petrie is impressive as the younger Wyatt. His character is more guarded, with less on the surface to work with, but his character comes fully alive.
Director Dina Epshteyn has helped her actors to present a solid coherent production. The set, by designers Shane Cinal and Lee Burckes, with its distressed bare rough wood and echoes of church, country and even that cold treacherous river, ably supports the group’s vision.