During the 85 minute bore of a play called “The River,” I thought about a lot of things. None of them was “The River.” For $175 you can see Hugh Jackman close up for nearly an hour and a half. He wears a tight a dark red t shirt the whole time. I realized something. He’s worked out so much that he has double triceps on each arm. I didn’t even know that was physically possible.
This obviously impressed Ben Brantly, who was so mesmerized by Jackman that he missed the fact “The River” is not a play. During the 85 minutes you get to watch Jackman clean and fillet a trout for dinner. He chops up lots of different things, like an onion and maybe celery. It’s like a segment from the Food Network. He also pouts glasses of wine, sets a table and takes off boaters (high water rubber pants). He also cleans his hands and the table with lemon, to get out the fish smell.
Not much happens in “The River.” There are two dull monologues about fish and fishing. You learn the difference between trout and sea trout. (“There isn’t one.”) There are two actresses, they alternate, you’re not sure for a while if they’re playing the same character. They disappear, another comes in at the end. Someone next to me said, “She must have killed the first two.” If only.
Jackman plays a loner called The Man who brings lots of women to his cabin on the river but won’t commit to them. He actually frightens them. Since he doesn’t have A Name, all he does is talk about and prepare fish. Frankly, you could this at Citarella for free.
There were celebrities in the audience: Jerry and Jessica Seinfeld, Ellen Burstyn, Harvey Keitel and his wife Daphna, and so on. Cindy Adams usually leaves at the intermission but she couldn’t last night because there was no intermission. This was wise. Otherwise people would have fled.
You know a show is bad when the publicist tells you “The producers don’t want press at the party.” This is code for: “They don’t want you asking questions while the reviews are being read.” (To be fair, they did do press in the lobby of theater after the show, I am told.)
Hugh Jackman has nothing to prove to us about being a “serious” actor. We all know he’s incredibly talented. But pick a real play, for god’s sake. “The River” could have easily been titled “Fish in the Dark.” Oh, but that’s taken. Let’s just call it “Les Miserables.”