Serial Monogamy Deeply Examined in Jez Butterworth’s “The River”

Photo by Dan Norman
Photo by Dan Norman
Photo by Dan Norman

Photo by Dan Norman

Jez Butterworth has become one of Great Britain’s major contemporary playwrights. He is a favorite of London’s Royal Court Theatre where so many major playwrights have launched and advanced their careers. Geniuses produced there like Caryl Churchill and Howard Brenton of the previous generation give you an idea of its importance.

Six years ago Amy Rummenie directed Walking Shadow Theatre’s compelling production of Butterworth’s Mojo and now has turned her hand toward another Royal Court-originated play of his. The River, also produced by Walking Shadow, will play at the Open Eye Theatre. She comments, “If we were going to be flippant about it, The River epitomizes the saying ‘Love the one you’re with.’ But playwright Jez Butterworth goes deeper and darker with this, using cyclical overlapping timelines to explore ideas of serial monogamy, intimacy, and romantic attraction. When we start dating someone new, are we seeking to make an original connection or are we trying to re-create the ghosts of the past?”

She points out that “for some people, these things don’t have to be opposites; the experiences of our past can shape our present choices, and new relationships can stretch to fit into that framework or change us as a person. But for some, the individual nuances that make relationships unique just can’t mesh with established patterns. What happens to those relationships?”

The River
Sept. 3–17
Open Eye Theatre, 506 24th St., Minneapolis

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