Chasing the River: Show Review by Debby Gray Bloom

Entering the bustling building on West 36th Street that houses several theater companies was an exciting introduction to the Off Broadway Chain Theatre.

Performed in the intimate theater on the 4th floor, the space was comfortable and inviting. Perfectly suited for this personal story written by Jean Dobie Giebel. “Chasing the River”, directed by Ella Jane New, is a finalist for the ATHE Excellence in Playwriting Award and has been optioned for television.

The play opens with its heroine, Kat, returning to her childhood home filled with difficult memories. Layers are slowly peeled back as the horrors of her childhood are revealed. Though sometimes only hinted at, it becomes clear that she has  endured and survived terror at the hands of her father and oblivious mother.
Flashing back and forth between the past and the present, the story is told with  snippets of information priming the audience to want to learn more. Numerous lighting changes help define the changes in time, as do the actors, as they skillfully portray their characters at different ages.  As a more experienced theater goer, I was able to recognize the lighting cues as an aid to decipher the current action from the memory.  While still getting the gist of the story, my friend, who had accompanied me, had more difficulty recognizing when the story was switching back to the past. She was unaware of the lighting changes which were consistent in their pattern to alert us of the change in time. This is perhaps an indication that the story was being portrayed well enough for her not to need those cues, while I felt it added to the production.

The story immediately drew you in, and there was no time wasted waiting for it to rev you up. The Dad was convincingly menacing from his first entrance . Christina Elise Perry as Kat was successful in conveying the complex confusion as the daughter who had to juggle her feelings of love and hatred for a Dad, who turns on a dime from supportive to abusive.

Though details were sometimes shrouded and left to your imagination , the mystery of what actually happened made the desire to meet the other characters  that much stronger.  Meeting the ineffectual Mom, the strong Aunt Addie, and  Sam, the high school boyfriend, all added to the texture of the story and helped fill in the picture of who Kat was. But it was with the return of sister Beth that most helped define the story and added life into the family dynamic. Strong performances by all!

How everyone had let  Kat down and turned away from what they suspected was happening was a powerful undercurrent to the story and helped make Kat, an already tragic character, even more sympathetic. What a powerful survivor she is!

Chasing the River is playing its World Premiere at the award-winning Off-Broadway Chain Theatre (312 W. 36th Street, 4th Floor, New York, NY 10018) through Saturday, February 29.

The production stars Caroline Orlando as Beth, Robyne Parrish* (OBR: The Giant Hoax) as Margaret, Christina Elise Perry* (Keith Huff’s Six Corners) as Kat, David Rey (Wait Until Dark) as Sam, Sara Thigpen* (NYIT Award Recipient – Outstanding Actress in a Featured Role) as Aunt Addie, David Wenzel (Film: Meet Joe Black OBR/Nat’l Tour: Hamlet) as Nathaniel.  *Actor’s performing courtesy of Actors’ Equity.  AEA approved showcase.

The production features scenic design by Raye Levine Spielberg and lighting design by Michael Abrams. Greg Russ is the sound designer and Nick Fondulis is the fight choreographer.


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