‘The River Bride’ to open Thursday at PCPA in Santa Maria
A magical dolphin plays an important part in “The River Bride,” a once-upon-any-time fairy tale set along the Amazon River.
PCPA, aka Pacific Conservatory Theatre, will perform the timeless story about romantic triangles and two sisters Thursday through March 5 at the Severson Theatre at Allan Hancock College in Santa Maria.
“The River Bride” is inspired by traditional Amazon River folklore about the river dolphin or Boto Encanto, which frequently appear in South American mythology. Botos (or Encante) are playful, magical beings that create mysterious happenings.
“The River Bride” is also inspired by the Brothers Grimm, the masters of cautionary fairy tales, and has graced stages across the country and Britain since its world premiere in 2016 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in Ashland. It was awarded the National Latino Playwriting Award.
The play is part of a three-play cycle termed “Grim Latino Fairytales” by Marisela Treviño Orta, a third-generation Mexican-American poet/playwright.
Marilet Martinez, who has known the playwright for a long time, is directing the PCPA production.
The cast features Christen Celaya as Helena, Rosie Quintana as Belmira, Johnny Valerio as Moises, Oscar Emmanuel Fabela as Duarte, Hugo Carbajal as Sr. Costa and Dena Martinez as Sra. Costa.
The play is full of romantic entanglements.
“There are several love triangles, depending on who’s on stage,” Ms. Martinez told the News-Press.
In “The River Bride,” the two sisters, Helena and Belmira Costa, are both in love with Moises. “He’s the new character, the stranger in the town,” she said. “It’s a very small village, and this creates a level of buzz.
“You have one sister who’s more outgoing and ambitious, Belmira. Helena, the older sister, bears a lot of responsibility, is more hesitant, more quiet. Both of them are taken with this stranger when he comes into town.
“Moises is a fisherman. He’s a charming character, a little on the mysterious side,” Ms. Martinez said. “He’s someone who’s desperately looking for connection. He’s someone who suffers from loneliness and solitude.
“Duarte is engaged to Belmira,” Ms. Martinez said. “At one point, he and Helena were interested in each other.”
Belmira didn’t know Helena and Duarte were interested in each other when Belmira and Duarte made a connection.
Duarte is a fisherman who works closely with the Costa family. “He’s an honorable fellow, duty-bound,” Ms. Martinez said. “He’s a good guy, but has some heartaches. He doesn’t feel like he gets a say in how his life is going.”
Helena and Belmira’s parents, Sr. and Sra. Costa, have been happily married for more than 20 years.
“They enjoy themselves. They enjoy their family,” Ms. Martinez said. “It’s interesting to watch these two parents who have figured out the romantic parts of their lives watching their daughters struggle with their own romantic decisions.”
For Sr. and Sra. Costa, happiness is as simple as “We love each other.”
Ms. Martinez was careful not to reveal too much about the river dolphin and its magical role in the story.
“There is an event in the play that doesn’t allow for the typical ending we expect in these sort of fairy tales,” she said.
“This is a play that involves a great deal of magic,” Ms. Martinez said. “We have an incredible design team that has transformed the theater into a breathtaking space.”
She said audience members will hear the sound of dolphins, thanks to the sound designer.
“We made the river much alive in the set design as well as the lighting design,” Ms. Martinez said.
Ms. Martinez, who saw early versions of the script as the playwright worked on it, said “The River Bride” has a Shakespearean quality to it.
“If you’re someone who’s a fan of Shakespeare’s work, you will absolutely enjoy ‘The River Bride.’”