Theater News Online
free issue
London Theatre Reviews
NY Theater Reviews
LTN Recommendations
NYTN Recommendations
Book Reviews
Movie Reviews
London Theatre Archives
NY Theater Archives
Latest New York News
Latest London News
NY News Archives
London News Archives
Peter Filichia's Monday Quiz
Dining and Travel
London Theatre Listings
NY Broadway Listings
Off-Broadway Listings
London Tickets
Advertise with us

Give a Gift


Adagio Teas
   Features  >  NY Theater Reviews

at Circle in the Square


  Hugh Jackman and Cush Jumbo/ Ph: Richard Termine

As a performer, Hugh Jackman hardly has anything left to prove. We know he can dance like Gene Kelly, croon like Frank Sinatra, high-kick like Peter Allen, and can successfully impersonate everyone from a crooked Chicago cop to a clawed, flawed superhero. In The River, now at Broadway’s Circle in the Square, he adds cleaning trout and chopping vegetables to his impressive repertoire of talents. But the bigger challenge he faces here is keeping audiences involved through all 85 minutes of Jez Butterworth’s murky, talky and vaguely mystical meditation on the joys of fly-fishing and the meaning of true love.

That Jackman mostly succeeds in this almost-Herculean task is due, in no small part, to his well-honed ability to command a stage by his mere presence, his gift for projecting an appealing mix of grown-up sincerity, adolescent romanticism and little-boy neediness, and his ability to fill out a tight t-shirt like nobody’s business. He’s also aided enormously here by two British actresses, the fiery Cush Jumbo and the enchanting Laura Donnelly, who do remarkable work in bringing full-bodied life to their nameless characters, two attractive women who end up in the remote cabin owned by The Man (played by Jackman) for a night of trout-fishing, lovemaking and teary, morning-after realizations.

In the first of director Ian Rickson’s little bits of theatrical hocus-pocus, The Woman (Jumbo) leaves the room during a conversation with the Man, and The Other Woman (Donnelly) appears from behind the same door, practically resuming the same dialogue. For a moment, we wonder if they are somehow one and the same person. However, it ultimately becomes clear (to use that word loosely) that they are two separate women whom the Man has asked to join him on the most important trout-fishing night of the year – albeit at separate times. 

It appears there is a certain routine that The Man follows (including cooking that trout) in order to woo these women, but Butterworth never lets us know whether it’s calculated or merely ritualistic. Then again, by play’s end, one cannot be completely sure which woman visited first – or even how many women ever visited the cabin. The veracity of any statement made by The Man to both ladies is constantly put in question – even by The Man himself.

That also pertains to a lengthy, mid-play recollection by The Man about his first, highly unusual experience catching a fish at age seven. Unfortunately, the tale – while possibly a telling clue to who The Man grew up to be – is rather rambling and uninvolving, and suffers from a slightly flat delivery by Jackman. It’s one of the rare times during the play when you wonder if a more poetic-minded actor, or at least one with a plummy British delivery, might have been a better choice for this difficult role.

There’s always been little question that Butterworth (who also penned Jerusalem and Mojo) is not interested in making things easy for anyone, and I suspect he hopes audience members might spend hours (or days) espousing different theories about what we’ve seen. But he lets us know so little about his characters that it’s hard to give that much of a damn. (And let’s face it, he’s the only one who might know the answer anyway.) Still, if one’s willing to go with the flow of The River, these 85 minutes yield their own considerable rewards.


SUBSCRIBE TO New York Theater News
SUBSCRIBE TO London Theater News

Yes, Prime Minister contracts its run, while A Chorus Line expands its own.
POWERHOUSE OF THEATRE - After 11 years as the Almeida Theatre's artistic director, Michael Attenborough is stepping down to focus on directing. 

SONGS FROM THE HEART - Once the Tony-Award winning musical is set to hit London in January.

Wine, Fruit, and Gourmet Gift Baskets.
Privacy Notice   |   Front Page
Copyright © All Rights Reserved.