Review: “The River Bride” in Santa Rosa

Folks who like their fairy-tale endings in the “and they lived happily ever after” vein may find themselves challenged by Marisela Treviño Orta’s The River Bride. Part Brazilian folklore and part Brothers Grimm at their grimmest, it’s the tale of two sisters and the men in their lives. Santa Rosa’s 6th Street Playhouse has a production running on their Monroe Stage through Nov. 27.

6th Street’s small black box stage has been turned into an Amazonian fishing village, where Belmira (Bethany Regan) is about to be married to Duarte (Lorenzo Alviso). Duarte was the childhood sweetheart of Belmira’s older sister Helena (Lauren DePass), but the passive Helena stepped aside once the assertive Belmira set her sights on him. Belmira sees Duarte as a way out of the village.

Duarte and the sisters’ father Señor Costa (Daniel Villalva) are out casting their nets for the wedding feast when they discover an unconscious man – fully clothed in a Panama suit and with a bandaged head – entangled in their net. They bring him back to the village where the sisters and their mother (Jannely Calmell) revive him. He identifies himself as Moises (Terrance Smith) and is immediately taken with Helena. After a fast courtship, Moises proposes immediate marriage. As a matter of fact, he must be married by sundown. Helena hesitates just long enough for Belmira to move in. Belmira has found a better way out of the village, or so she thinks.

More a rumination on regret than love, director Marty Pistone has gathered a design team and cast that hit all the right notes in the telling of this melancholy tale. Giulio Caesare Perrone’s nicely evocative set, Luca Catanzaro’s lighting, Pamela Johnson’s costuming, Ben Roots’s sound design, and Nate Riebli’s original compositions work in harmony with a terrific ensemble of performers to bring a real sense of otherworldliness to the stage.

Life is a series of hard choices and a leap of faith is often necessary to make those choices, particularly when it comes to love. Taking the leap can lead to a joyous life. Not taking it can lead to a life of regret. Either way, there are no guarantees. That struggle is the heart of the show and the entire cast brings that heart to life.

Take a leap of faith and see this show.

‘The River Bride’ runs through Nov. 27 on the Monroe Stage at 6th Street Playhouse, 52 W. Sixth Street, Santa Rosa. Thurs-Sat., 7:30pm; Sat-Sun, 2pm. $22–$44. 707.523.4185.

Photos by Eric Chazankin

This review originally appeared in an edited version in the North Bay Bohemian and Pacific Sun.

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