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Ensemble Theatre’s ‘The River’ will grab you...hook, line and sinker

Metaphor is an interesting word and one that is not easily defined. Sure, you can look it up in the dictionary and see that it is “a figure of speech which makes an implied comparison between things that are not literally alike” but how does that work in the real world? My dad used to call terms like that “fifty cent words” that are used more as fluff than to enlighten.

In the program for Ensemble Theatre’s production of Jez Butterworth’s “The River”, director Ian Wolfgang Hinz is quoted as saying, “As a metaphor, fly fishing sets the table for this feast of the mind.” Un Huh. Personally, I think that he is over thinking the situation a bit. I feel that it is a fairly simple story that will be viewed completely different depending on if you are male or female.

The Man (Dan Zalevsky) has access to a fairly remote cabin that is situated on a cliff overlooking an active sea trout stream whose fishing rights belongs to his uncle. He has brought a young lady, The Woman (Becca Moseley) to the cabin who is not a fan of fishing but seems willing to learn. After all, The Man is a handsome, bearded hunk who recites poetry, is willing to share intimate moments and even cleans the fish.

It is August and they are there to fish for sea trout at midnight. The conditions are ideal with calm winds, no moon and hungry fish eager to take their lures. Although she would rather curl up with a book, The Woman agrees to go on this nocturnal fishing expedition. In the next scene we find The Man inside the cabin frantically calling the police and reporting The Woman as missing. There is a noise of someone entering and it is The Other Woman (Laura Rauh) who is very buzzed. It seems that she had gotten lost and met a stranger who was poaching on the restricted stretch of stream. She hooked a fish, he helped her land the fish, they share a spliff and she kisses him as a thank you. While glad that she is all right, The Man is upset about the poacher, the spliff and the kiss.

At this point the play shifts back and forth between the two women with nearly identical scenes that ends with jealous females eventually leaving in a huff. The Woman is more of a home body while The Other Woman likes to hike and fish but it is not an all consuming pastime for her as it is for him. Over the course of the play there is eventually Another Woman (Laurel Hoffman) who seems to be a better fit for The Man as she actually likes the outdoors and loves fishing, especially sea trout.

If this all seems a bit confusing, it is. My wife kept expecting the show to turn into a murder mystery with the weapon of choice being either a fillet knife or a large colorful rock that had been discovered in the stream. She also felt that The Man was a cad out to seduce young women and was using the same “bait” each time. Personally, from a male point of view, I felt that The Man was simply looking for someone to be his life partner and it took three attempts to find her (Another Woman is a keeper).

As for the actors they are superb. Dan Zalevsky as The Man shows real passion as both an avid fisherman and a potential partner. The three women take virtually the same roles and give their own particular spin to them. The production is well directed by Ian Wolfgang Hinz who maintains an air of mystery clear through to the end. The props procured by Becca Moseley are perfect even down to the various hand tied flies (I looked). The set by Ian Hinz is well worn rustic and his lighting design works very well. The Sound Design by Becca Moseley and Celeste Cosentino is excellent as well and well suited for the Black Box theater.

There is a certain lilting poetry that runs through the dialogue of this play. To those of Northeast Ohio residency who has ever hooked into a six pound Steelhead on a perfect spring morning you will feel the electricity described. Non-anglers will find an intriguing tale of love and loss. This is definitely one you need to catch.

The Ensemble Theatre production of “The River” will be on stage in the Administration Building of Notre Dame College located at 4545 College Road, South Euclid, Ohio through March 5, 2023. For more information and tickets go to or call (216) 321-2930.


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Who is Mark Horning?

Over the course of my life I have worked a variety of jobs including newspapers, retail camera sales and photography. Eight years ago I embarked on yet another career as writer. This included articles concerning sports and cultural events in Cleveland, Ohio as well reviews of the many theatrical productions around town. These days are spent photographing professional dance groups, theater companies and various galas and festivals as well as attending various stage performances and posting reviews about them.  

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