DOWN BY THE RIVER

Screenplay Adaptation by Gerald Berns


Adapted from the Pulitzer-nominated play

LESTER SIMS RETIRES TOMORROW

by William Curtis


DOWN BY THE RIVER is a sophisticated comedic drama set in 1973 in St. Louis, Missouri that focuses on Lester Sims (David Morse), a professor of modern poetry, and his enduring relationship with Margaret Beauchamp (Kimberly Elise), a brilliant black Ph.D.. Having shared a devoted and excessively private life with each other for over 20 years, they have yet to commit and be married. Lester and Margaret have their own turn-of-the-century apartments not far from the Mississippi River and not far from a more nefarious neighborhood.


Tomorrow will be Lester Sim’s last day as a college professor, ending the decades he has taught the poetry of T.S. Eliot.  An intense turning point in his life -- losing his job, his mother close to her death, Margaret threatening to leave him -- he is at the end of his rope. Actually it’s not rope but a gun he’s bought, though he has no knowledge how to use it, or whether it’s to be used on himself or someone else.


What ensues between Lester and Margaret is a war between two intellectual titans with stunning lead roles for two world-class actors. David Morse and Kimberly Elise will exercise their full range between comedy and drama with stops at every emotion in between. 


Ultimately this is a story of reckoning: whether Lester can complete anything in this life, practical or from the heart... whether he has it in him to truly love another human being. Margaret, no longer willing to endure an incomplete, decades-old love affair of diminishing returns... she has set a new course. Whether she can stick to it is another matter.


This complex relationship is made even more so by it being interracial in the very neighborhood where James Earl Ray is rumored to have plotted the King assassination and where racism flows unchecked just below the civilized surface of their society. 


DOWN BY THE RIVER deals with unfulfilled dreams resulting from fear, whether real or from our own making.   “It reminds us, among other things, that seeking and finding our identity in our work rather than in ourselves, we indeed are on a slippery slope.... a portrait of a man who suddenly realizes that the society he has wrapped himself in no longer has any use for him”... (the playwright) has not taken a grim approach, writes with wit and humanity...”  

                                          --- THE NEW YORK TIMES