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The Water Is Wide
Presented by Randy Rutherford

Reviewed: 2012-08-29 02:53:42
Rated: 10 out of 10 [5 Stars]
By: Robin Chase (e-mail private -- log in to view)

The Water Is Wide is a bit of a departure for master monologuist Randy Rutherford of San Francisco, California, USA. Whereas his previous five solo shows were outstanding stories from his past (from childhood well into adulthood), his newest offering takes place in the present. It is a recounting of recent events involving himself, his girlfriend Sophie (with whom he co-habitates) and the mysterious stenographer Roxanne who - as the story goes along - turns out not to be such a mystery at all because she is revealed as the voice of Randy's inner self. Problem is, she more often than not is the voice of that part of Randy that is constantly getting him into trouble with Sophie. And Roxanne will even take on the role of Devil's Advocate, complicating matters further for our frequently-bewildered storyteller.

I should point out right here that Randy is hearing-impaired. As a young man in the 1970s, honing his talents as a folk singer in Alaska, he was hit with congenital hearing loss. Roxanne is also that part of him which tries to understand what everyone else is saying. "She" tries to interpret for him, but way too often, "she" gets it all wrong. This leads Randy into situations involving Sophie where he finds himself negotiating his way through their relationship as if he was wandering through a minefield... and stepping on more than a few mines along the way. Following a series of misunderstandings, miscalculations and misinterpretations, matters come to a head during a stay at a new-age Hot Springs where Randy feels completely out of his element and where - thanks to the bumbling Roxanne - he develops the fear that his Sophie may not stay true to him.

This story is not without humour; indeed, there is much of it as Randy is never above poking fun at himself. The comedy is woven skillfully through the pathos we feel as we try to understand what everyday life must be like for someone who is hearing-impaired, especially when living with a partner whose hearing is fine. From bedroom intimacy to ordering takeout food from a diner, if the hearing-impaired person only reacts with misunderstanding instead of attempting to communicate properly, problems ensue. As Sophie finally tells Randy, "I never know what you can or cannot hear!" Why? Because Randy will never ask questions... because he is reluctant to ask people to repeat what they've said or to talk to him clearly and directly... because he can't or won't ask for clarification... and to make things worse, he has been acting this way with the woman he loves and the woman who dearly loves him. Randy's stubborness - and perhaps a slice of pride - have gotten in his way.

There is a message in this story for those of us who are not hearing-impaired; that being that we must exercise patience, understanding and proper communication techniques. Don't yell at a hearing-impaired person - that doesn't help at all. Look directly at them, speak clearly and enunciate as properly as you can. Most hearing-impaired persons can lip-read well enough to converse with you. Give them that opportunity.

There is also a message in this tale for those who are hearing-impaired and in a relationship. Certainly, Randy was the beneficiary of his own message: Swallow your pride! Always remember that in such a relationship, trust and communication are paramount! As the song goes (that Randy concludes with), "You've got to give a little, take a little, and let your poor heart break a little."

Randy Rutherford is the "Garrison Keillor of the North American Fringe Festival Circuit." He is as down-to-earth a man as you'll ever meet. His homespun tales can make you laugh, can bring a tear to your eye, can make you think - often all at the same time. Audiences relate readily to Randy because he is one of us - an ordinary person trying to make sense of the extraordinary world around him. The Water Is Wide is another example of this expert story craftsman making sense for us all.

(Review of performance held in The Planetarium Auditorium on 29 July 2012 during the Winnipeg Fringe Theatre Festival in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.)

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