The co-production between the Dallas Theater Center and the Goodman Theatre in Chicago opened Sunday. And Dallas native Regina Taylor’s three-part drama gets positive-to-decidedly-mixed notices. Mostly, the reviewers liked the cast but didn’t buy the play’s epic, three-part structure, seeing ‘Trinity River’ as a single drama that needs some serious pruning — even as it represents an advance in Taylor’s writing.
From the Chicago Tribune:
Oh, how one wishes this play, which opened Sunday in Chicago, had benefited from a powerful dramaturge or director who could have persuaded Taylor to cut back on all those forced and uninteresting poetic reaches — the moon, gardening, rain, cicadas, the walking into the light, the characters’ tedious references to “roots” — and just stick to her rich, real-life characters and push on towards deeper human truths about love, pain, class, betrayal and forgiveness.
Instead of the often opaque or chokingly politically correct work of seasons past … this three-hour trilogy, which is clearly more than a little autobiographical, gives us a revealing, deeply intimate, “hang out the dirty laundry” look at crucial aspects of Taylor’s past. In the process, she seems to have liberated herself as a writer and discovered a far more direct, accessible, overtly emotional way into her audience’s heart.
… the task The Trinity River Plays never quite discharges is that of opening up Iris’s story to take full advantage of its monumental scale (matched by Todd Rosenthal’s gorgeously monumental set). Taylor patiently elaborates a set of neat dichotomies: books versus life experience, individual aspirations versus family ties, secrecy versus openness. But one has the nagging sense that a perfectly satisfying shorter play is being dutifully, repetitively padded out.
“Trinity” is overall a story that will cause you to think about your life, some of the storms that you have faced ( or might in the near future) and how you have or will handle them. From the beautiful set to the great lighting effects( Tyler Micoleau) and Karen Perry’s costumes, and of course the wonderful musical interludes that played between scenes, this is a complete and wonderful experience, capturing some very realistic moments onstage.
Though it seems a bit of a stretch to call these three individual plays … the three-hour-plus running time certainly supports the designation. Emotional fatigue might be an issue were it not for the powerful performances by the cast, with particular notice for Karen Aldridge as Iris and Penny Johnson Jerald as her mother Rose … . In the end, the playwright simply tries to address too many of Life’s Big Questions in a single evening. But for the lack of focus, the plays—which really should be a play—would rise to Taylor’s undeniable talent and ambition.