The River

November 17, 2014 5:03 AM

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If anyone's ever earned the right to star in a play as a character called—simply—The Man, it is Hugh Jackman. In Jez Butterworth's The River, a mind-bending, occasionally precious, always tense chamber drama, the star wears that moniker proudly. Fit as a fiddle, with biceps the size of a child's head, Jackman is the literal stand-in for the playwright's slightly idealized version of the virile male. When a woman proclaims to him that she wants to ''eat him whole'' during the proceedings, you can't help but think most of the audience feels the exact same way.

It's a smart way inside the Butterworth's perhaps most enigmatic, interpretive work to date; knowing Jackman as well as we do creates an immediate in that might have been more work for a lesser known actor. The Man is a devoted fisherman living in a cobweb-strewn wood cabin, who entertains ladies wi...

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