VIDEO: Two River Theater’s ‘Bridge of San Luis Rey’ Brings Pulitzer-Winning Book to Life

Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson

A new dramatization of Thornton Wilder’s novel “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” has brought the written page to life in Red Bank.

Although Wilder is largely remembered for his playwrighting, “San Luis Rey” was the one book that earned him a Pulitzer (he earned two more for the plays Our Town and The Skin of Our Teeth).

Now the two worlds of Wilder have been wedded in a new production commissioned by and performed at the Two River Theater.

Set in 18th century Peru, the book — and the play — tell the story of five travelers who fall to their deaths when the bridge of the title breaks without warning. As Wilder wrote in the final words of the novel, “There is a land of the living and a land of the dead and the bridge is love, the only survival, the only meaning.”

Broadway World is calling the production “enthralling.” reports that it’s “beautifully scripted.” Writes Patrick Maley: “Greenspan’s version is efficient (75 minutes, not six hours), playful, and most of all dexterous with language. Lines are frequently in verse, and even the prose passages are vibrantly lyrical. It is a whimsical fairytale about big themes like love, longing, loss, and loneliness, but it is first a paean to the joys and powers of words.”

The Wall Street Journal’s Edward Rothstein is a little more tempered in his praise: “[G]ive Mr. Greenspan considerable credit for his venturesome daring: adapting a novel that Wilder thought beyond the reach of the stage. It still is, I believe. The effort doesn’t collapse, but it does creak, its occasional pleasures accompanied by persistent wariness.”

Photo credit: T. Charles Erickson

“The Bridge of San Luis Rey” has been adapted for the stage by 5-time Obie Award-winning playwright and actor David Greenspan (Uncle Pio) who leads a nine-person cast including Sumaya Bouhbal (Pepita), Zachary Infante (Esteban),Julienne Hanzelka Kim (Madre María), Elizabeth Ramos (Camila Perichole), Steven Rattazzi (Don Vicente/Don Andrés de Ribera/Captain Alvarado/ Jaime/Inez), Mary Lou Rosato (Doña María), Bradley James Tejeda (Manuel) and Madeline Wise (Doña Clara). The creative team includes scenic designer Antje Ellermann, costume designer Elizabeth Hope Clancy, lighting designer Yuki Nakase, and sound designer Karin Graybash. The wig designer is David Bova and the puppet consultant is Eric Wright. The casting is by Taylor “Sharky” Williams, and the stage manager is Megan Smith.

The production is directed by Ken Rus Schmoll.

Through March 18. More information here.