Down the Mountain and Across the Stream
Author: Jake Shore
Description: Paul's parents don't know if their enlisted son is dead but Turner claims to and will sell the information.
Year Written/Copyrighted: 2013
Date Added: 9/8/2013
Content Advisory: Strong language
Keywords: Characters are Mostly Young Adults · Drama · Mostly Male Characters · Naturalism/Realism · Shakespeare · War
This play is in the following collections: FringeNYC 2013
1 Act, 60 Minutes
2 Females, 4 Males
Read an excerpt
NOTE: Down the Mountain and Across the Stream is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to Rochelle at email@example.com.
From the Author:The last thing I want to do is create a piece that hides behind ambiguity and texture because of a lack of clarity and strength. My intention was for the story and characters to be as real, organic and fulfilled as possible. How a person deals with war is a dominant idea. The setting is intended to convey a universality. The natural human tendency to mimic the people we respect and or spend time with is present.
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Original Production Information
Down the Mountain and Across the Stream was first produced at the 2013
New York International Fringe Festival with the following cast and credits:
Director: Jake Shore
Lighting Design, Sound Board Operator and Stage Manager: Ian Wehrle
ITN Review by Garry Schrader
The title recalls Hemingway, his first flop, Across the River and Into the Woods, and one of the main characters does too: Gerald is a writer, sensitive and macho at the same time, who carries a gun and says he was “built for war.”
But I read playwright Jake Shore’s Down the Mountain and Across the Stream as a critique of a certain style of masculinity, a critique that calls to mind a favorite—truer—reversal of an old truism: “When the tough get going, the going gets tough.”
The hour-long play is set in the nonspecific future, when war is a constant and the generals don’t much care any more about winning hearts and minds, can’t even be bothered to let grieving families know the fates of their cannon-fodder sons and daughters.
Gerald and his wife, Alice, have a son who went off to war, and from whom they have heard nothing. Alice lives in the simple faith that he’s still alive, but for Gerald, “Hope can be…bad. It can be bad if it’s untrue.” A backwoods capitalist, Turner, has found a way into the generals’ enclave and is turning a nice profit selling the news of the life or death of their children to worried families. Turner sends two colleagues—ambivalent Eric and pragmatic Jen—to visit Gerald and make him a deal.
Shore’s dystopian vision of a militaristic, late-capitalist near-future is strong, but is compromised somewhat by problems of plausibility and the fact that the primary characters make decisions that seem more rash and stupid than tragic. The cast is solid across the board. I found Stephen Heskett particularly compelling as the conflicted Eric, who exemplifies T. S. Eliot’s observation that the good tend to be weak. Daniel Damiano's Gerald is persuasive in suffering and in anger, and the tension and skittishness of Cara Moretto’s Jen helps build the suspense. Laurie Avant was a touching Alice, but I wondered if the character needed to seem so simple-minded.
Mr. Shore does double-duty as director, and while he gets credit for sustaining tension and a consistently somber tone, he has given short shrift to the stagecraft. Some kind of set design would have been welcome, as would more blocking: His actors too often seem uncomfortably glued to the three cubes that constitute the set.
Nevertheless, serious-minded plays, plays that ask us to question how our characters are affected by our society, and how our choices have consequences, are always welcome, particularly at FringeNYC. So give welcome to Down the Mountain and Across the Stream, one of the more intelligent and thoughtful plays you are likely to see at FringeNYC this year.
reviewed at the 2013 New York International Fringe Festival