Goodman’s “Trinity River Plays” is an Emotional Ride

“The Trinity River Plays,” which premiered Jan. 24, is a beautifully realized play about family betrayal and family love—about the roots and wrongs that hold people together or wrest them apart.

Three related dramas by Regina Taylor introduce us to Iris on her 17th birthday. The occasion coincides with the arrival of the 17-year locust, called a “jar fly” down in Dallas, where the play is set. The second and third acts take place 17 and 18 years later.

Iris’ family is a matriarchy. Her mother Rose is an strong, independent woman, played expertly by the beautiful Penny Johnson Jerald. Iris’ older cousin Jasmine is given a star-turn performance by Christina Clark, and Jasmine’s mother is the dear Aunt Daisy, played by Jacqueline Williams, who calls ’em as she sees ’em, but doesn’t see clearly enough.

The three males are stereotypes: good guy Jack, played by Samuel Ray Gates, and Daisy’s husband and a definite bad guy, Ray Earl, played by Jefferson A. Russell, who also plays Iris’ ex-husband, Frank, a decent human being.

As the center of the drama, Karen Aldridge first embodies the sweet, idealistic young Iris and later returns as a successful—though troubled—woman.

Director Ethan McSweeny mines the show’s abundant humor, but the story is heart-rending. Be ready for a long night—3 hours and 15 minutes, with two intermissions. “Trinity River” runs through Feb. 20. For tickets call 312-443-3800 or visit