Betting on the Riverman (second review)

Betting-on-the-Riverman-Julian-N-KEY-promo-image1Writer: David B. Fraser
Director: Julian Nicholson
Cast: Kimberly Jonasson, Rick Kanary, Carol Riddell, Julian Nicholson

Review by: Tom Mackan

We find him in a posh casino hotel a hostage to his circumstances, gallantly holding firm to the ephemeral money that is just out of reach and as his grasp of it slips through the airy absence of it he fools himself that he’s got it. Reality checks in and out of his space. There’s something out of this world about the place, there’s a feeling that it’s not really happening, that what’s going on has already happened, the Eddie in this casino room has already left and what we’re seeing is that uncanny time between being and not being, that the end has already happened but he’s playing it out like the tail end of the tape of it.

“Betting on the Riverman”, David Fraser’s play that I watched tonight is the main character of the show at HTI. It’s good, and it’s existential and his characters have had their existence, and their meaning is over and their existence is pointless. The Riverman of the title has collected his package of goods and has crawled away to await the arrival of the next package. The package we’re watching develop is Eddie.

The players in this tale indeed are real, but only in the progress of the tale being told by writer, Fraser, and only in the performance of the actors, and we can’t escape the idea that we too are only actors. Rick Kanary is playing Eddie and he’s a gambler who’s betting on the Riverman. He’s wonderful in the role, all gaunt and tired. Carrying a hope that isn’t there, Kanary seems to instinctively understand that Eddie’s watching his own performance as in déjà vu, and must play out the process to its foregone conclusion. He deals with Grace, the threatening bimbo who arrives to get the money that’s not there, trying to brush her away like a pesky biting insect.

The talented Carol Riddell plays the role most effectively, looking marvelously ready to give what it takes to consummate a deal. Ex-wife Val, in a clear and solid performance by Kimberly Jonasson, has more substance in this non-reality, establishing firmly for Eddie that there is no money, it’s gone, and more of Eddie’s being goes with her when she leaves. But before it goes we begin to share something of what goes down the drain when a man chooses to bet on the Riverman. Enter Eddie’s father, in a cool delivery by the play’s director, Julian Nicholson, convincing Eddie his choices are poor, that he’s a loser.

We hear of the bad men, waiting for Eddie to come home and demand what he owes them, as if there might be an afterlife. Increasingly, as a reviewer of this production, I was struck by the haunting presence of Samuel Beckett, of the absurdity of life’s episodes and

I felt a fear for Eddie. Perhaps that’s what Fraser, our writer of this piece, might have had in mind; that betting on the Riverman, who lives by hauling the drowning victims from the river, from a place down river from the Casino, is akin to waiting for Godot.

Watch the final moment of the play with Kanary as Eddie looking with non-committal mystery at the absurd cheque for $2000 that will get him to nowhere, to his Godot, the Riverman, as the light fades to black. I like this production, I love this play, and I loved Rick Kanary as Eddie.

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