Mad River Rising
ISBN 0-9669177-2-3, 978-0-9669177-2-7, 96 pp, 2003, $18.00
[Mad River Rising] represents Yeaton’s achieved mastery of the medium, a play for all seasons and all locales. The generational tensions that it explores, as well as the cultural prejudices it exposes, have the correct balance between the particular and the general to strike chords of recognition in any audience, much the way Our Town does. The play is moving without being either obvious or saccharine. It is as economical of speech and as dry of wit as the people whom it portrays. . . . It is also an eminently theatrical play, sliding between now and the past and mixing characters of various generations, as in a dream.
In this moving story told by characters representing three generations of a Vermont farm family, Dana Yeaton uses the Great Flood of 1927 as a central metaphor to show the profound effects of both sudden and gradual changes in the Vermont landscape, family dynamics, and rural way of life since then. The play weaves back and forth in time through the voice and memory of Angus, who is played both as a young boy and an old man. Old man Angus returns to the top floor of his family's barn, where young Angus watches his father drown as he attempts to cross the rising Mad River, which separates the barn from the family home. Eventually the house gives way and the river claims the rest of Angus’s family as well. The unresolved trauma of that day haunts Angus through the ghost of his father, whose persistence appearance interacts with Angus’s present day family relationships. Together with his nephew and daughter-in-law, Angus struggles to come to terms with the past, and make decisions for his future.