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'Two Rivers' Runs Deep at The Alchemist Theater

We talk with the show's writer and director about its current run at The Alchemist Theatre

Mar. 31, 2016
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All Photos by Erik Thiel

Two Rivers, a moving, dramatic account of a family grappling with the revelation of a deep, dark family secret, has two more upcoming performances at The Alchemist Theater, on April 3 and April 10. The show is the work of first-time playwright Michael Lucchesi, who had been involved in the Los Angeles theater scene many years ago before moving to Milwaukee. 

Two Rivers is for the most part an accessible work, but between the lines it’s densely layered with allusions, metaphors and mythology, that help it transcend what you’d usually expect from a playwright’s debut piece. Although it’s a staged reading, the performances of the five actors capture the dour spirit of the work and move the audience.

The play deals with some unmistakably dark subject matter, as it closely examines the unraveling of a family over the course of a summer at their newly renovated lake house. The tone of the show evolves seamlessly from vaguely unpleasant to catastrophic as it progresses.

Two Rivers was the culmination of a long process of research, work-shopping, and brainstorming. The script has a taut and eloquent quality, with strong dialogue-driven character development and no wasted words.

“In Jan. 2015 I started researching matriarchal societies," said Lucchesi. "In February, using the creation myth as an outline, I started writing. I wrote through the summer until we were able to have a reading at Paul Fisher-Zargozas’ play-writing workshop at Hamilton High. Although I’ve spent a lot of time on it, I’m not sure if the writing process is ever complete.”

                  

Lucchesi’s daughter Sydonia, who agreed to stage-manage the project early on, is a veteran of the Milwaukee theater scene, having gained a multitude of experience working with numerous theater companies in a wide range of roles. Lucchesi recalls, “The production process was much easier by having Sydonia on board early. There is an old joke about how many stage managers does it take to change a light bulb? The answer is, it’s already done.”

Sydonia helped to bring a loose and collaborative mood to the play, and focused on helping the actors to get in touch with their characters. She recalls, “The production process for this show has been fairly loose. Everyone who is involved has a lot of other things on their plates right now, so figuring out times to get together for rehearsals has been a bit tricky. We also wanted actors to be able to play around as much as they want to with each of their characters, so we're refraining from providing a ton of direction, so that they can concentrate on how they think the characters would act and react, as opposed to how we think the characters should behave. It brings more ideas to the table, and introduces us to aspects of the characters that we may not have noticed before, being wrapped up in our own ideas of them. We had one main read-through before the first performance, where we had pretty in depth talks about the characters and their actions, and fully discussed each scene immediately after reading through it. There was some direction provided at this point, but for the most part it was more of an assertion of what they were already trying with things, and asking them to bring out more of that.”

It’s safe to say that Michael Lucchesi will continue to write plays after Two Rivers, but he’s very much invested in it at the moment. “I have some ideas that I have been researching, so yes I do intend to continue writing," he said. "As far as the near future I plan to devote as much time as possible to Two Rivers in order to attract attention to the show and generate more interest in it.”

The final two performances of the current run of Two Rivers at The Alchemist Theater will take place on Sunday, April 3, and Sunday, April 10. Both shows will take place at 4PM.

 

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