(Emma Brown’s article appeared in Interview, 11/14; via Pam Green.)

Inserted into the program of The River, Jez Butterworth's new Broadway play, is a poem by W.B. Yeats, "The Song of the Wandering Aengus." In it, the narrator waxes about a transcendent experience while trout fishing—a freshly caught fish is transformed into a flighty woman, a "glimmering girl." In the play's opening scene, trout fishing is mythologized once again in lyrical form, this time when Hugh Jackman's unnamed protagonist, The Man, reads a poem by Ted Hughes to his new girlfriend, The Woman. Alone in his uncle's old cabin, The Man attempts get The Woman to join him fishing, but she is reluctant. Finally she agrees, and they disappear. When the couple returns, however, The Woman, played by Cush Jumbo, has been replaced. Instead, there is The Other Woman (Laura Donnelly), more passionate and more flirtatious in manner.

The Man seems equally infatuated with both women—he professes his love for each one of them as passionately as he speaks about trout fishing—and yet, it seems clear that neither will last past the weekend. They are too clever, and The Man, sending each one to fetch a memento from a box containing another woman's picture, seems bent of self-sabotage, conscious of his own underlying insincerity.


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