Riding With Night

Riding with Night opens with an ensemble of black-cloaked figures, their faces masked, and a voiceover providing an epilogue to the play we are about to see.

The story is intriguing and the staging is well thought out, with a simple set of elements evoking time and place.

It’s a gothic tale of how the past can never truly be left behind and it unfolds in two separate timelines. Mason and Jean are breaking up: high school sweethearts now in their late twenties, they’ve come to the point where their lives no longer fit together. Mason works for a national park, which is about to close down as a result of the Government’s budget cuts. Jean voted for this political party and he can’t forgive her for it. Jean, much as she says she does, cannot quite forgive or trust Mason for something that happened in their past. Meanwhile Alex, an artist, leaves her college friends to study in Paris. Her study abroad opportunity is soured slightly by criticism from one of her teachers who says Alex’s self-portrait suggests Alex doesn’t know the girl in the painting. When Alex meets the exotic Julie, a tattooed and chain-smoking French student, she is led on a dark journey to reconnect with her past.

Intercut with this story, we see the group of friends, played by other actors, as high schoolers who play spin the bottle and are fascinated by an abandoned mine at the national park where they live in Arizona.

The story is intriguing and the staging is well thought out, with a simple set of elements evoking time and place. The use of the cloaked chorus, in particular, is excellent. There are always cloaked figures on stage, watching the story. Sometimes they are used as trees, to suggest the woods. Other times, I didn’t even notice their presence immediately, which was eerie and effective.

There is space for some refinement to the script, and the pacing of this 75-minute show did sometimes drag. While it didn’t have me on the edge of my seat, I did appreciate the use of suspense and magical realism in this exploration of loss and letting go.

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

Sparked by the repercussions of Arizona’s recent, controversial politics, Riding With Night is a poetic journey that examines the ripple effect of loss. Tangled in the dangers of the southwest’s abandoned mining industry, the play dips into magical realism as its characters wrestle with a secret from long ago. Featuring native music and dance elements, the play redefines our need for permanence and our thirst for fences. This world premiere is presented by Chaparral Theater, who are all Arizona residents and proud to bring a play based on their community to an international audience.

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