Tribune-Review – Quantum Theatre’s next play is a mystery and a drama with a tinge of magical realism, says its director Adil Mansoor.
“The world you are staring at is magical,” Mansoor says. “You can’t put logic to it.”
He’s talking about Jez Butterworth’s “The River,” a multilayered drama that is both poetic and mysterious.
Quantum Theatre’s promotional materials describe it as “part ghost story, part gothic thriller, and 100 percent homage to the art of trout fishing.”
It will be performed Oct. 7 to 30 inside the dry-dock building of the marina on the edge of Aspinwall Riverfront Park in Aspinwall.
“At first, it seems like a straight-forward play about a man who has brought a new girlfriend to a remote cabin in the woods by a river,” Mansoor says.
But as Quantum regulars might anticipate — and audience members will quickly realize — that’s only the beginning.
Butterworth’s play is more like a trout stream or the Allegheny River that can be glimpsed through the windows at the back of the set: the surface of the water may appear calm, but there’s a lot going on in the depths below.
“ ‘The River’ is exciting,” Mansoor says. “Its twists and turns make us almost desperate to know what just happened. There is no way someone could watch this piece without wanting to crack the puzzle.”
That’s why Quantum artistic director Karla Boos thought Mansoor would be the ideal person to direct “The River.”
Mansoor had directed the multilayered drama “Chickens in the Yard” for Quantum in 2015, and Boos had been impressed with the outcome.
“Adil sees many layers and multiplicities and he is great with actors,” Boos explains.
Initially, Mansoor was reluctant.
“We talked about the challenges of the script when I first read it. This is a thing that you have to read over and over to get it. I have read it once a day since July,” he says.
As he read and re-read it, he connected to it.
“Two things stuck out — the incredible juxtaposition of funny, casual dialogue and its verse right out of (poet William) Yeats,” he says. “What got to me was all the reflections: water and drawing and capturing your own image. Jez (Butterworth) has done questions so intense, mysterious and intriguing, and it’s just so fast that the audience can’t stop paying attention.”
Part of Quantum’s mission is to match experimental and intriguing theater productions with supportive but unusual locations.
Because of its title and content, Boos was determined to stage the play at one of Pittsburgh’s rivers.
“I wanted to bring the resonance of the river to the play,” she says. “I wanted proximity to the river. But not just any bit.”
She chose the site in Aspinwall Riverfront Park for its driver-accessible location and parking just off busy Freeport Road.
The park itself is detached from the nearby traffic and commerce. The tree-shaded river bank walkway and pathways through open meadows might well be in the Laurel Highlands rather than within sight of the Highland Park Bridge.
“This is a magical and beloved place where people really experience the river,” Boos says.