Those who know husbands Christopher Bineham and Harrison David Rivers may recognize details in "The Bitter Earth" at Penumbra Theatre.
The characters in "This Bitter Earth" -- a black playwright and a white activist -- are not prolific black playwright Harrison David Rivers and his white husband, activist/writer Christopher Bineham. But Rivers says he's an autobiographical playwright and Bineham agrees that there are similarities between art and life in the play, which begins performances April 24 at Penumbra Theatre:
1. The couple in the play and the couple in real life both click pretty quickly.
2. The script's description of the play couple's home exactly corresponds to the St. Paul condo where Bineham and Rivers used to live.
3. The detail of the black character in the play bringing a bouquet of ranunculi to his potential future in-laws comes directly from real life: They're Rivers' favorite flower and he did, in fact, buy a bouquet of them at Mill City Farmer's Market to bring when he first met his in-laws.
Bineham says people in Rivers' circle simply know that details he observes could find their way into his plays. But the plays are not documentaries: "Neither of the characters in the play are us and, actually, the relationship, while there are elements of it that are like our relationship, it isn't really like [ours], even though specific events have been lifted into the play."