One Good Marriage
MetroStage, a small professional theater in Alexandria, VA, is presenting the U.S. premiere of One Good Marriage, a play by Canadian author Sean Reycraft. In its compact 60-minute running time, the play encompasses a surprising range of emotions from dark humor to pity and ultimate empathy, and the after-effect will stay with the viewer for days. The problem with reviewing this play is what one can say about it without saying too much?
Carolyn Griffin, producing artistic director at MetroStage, discovered One Good Marriage during a recent trip to Toronto as part of the Canadian/Washington Theatre Partnership sponsored by the Canadian Embassy and the Helen Hayes Awards. The Canadian Embassy is a sponsor of the current production.
The scene (a minimalist set designed by Tracie Duncan) is a social hall somewhere in Ontario, with scattered folding chairs, music from a portable cassette deck and a "Happy Anniversary" sign sagging unevenly from the ceiling. Stewart (Marcus Kyd) and Stephanie (Toni Rae Brotons), celebrating their first anniversary, enter and, smiling warily, address the audience. "Everybody died," Steph says. "Everybody's dead. But thanks for coming."
What possibly could be going on? Why do Steph and Stewart keep repeating the same phrases, trying to stay in control, and finish each other's sentences? What is causing Steph's panic attacks, and how does Stewart know automatically how to help her through them by telling her to visualize calming, peaceful, non-threatening things?
Tortuously, Stewart and Steph recall how they met as fellow members of a small-town high school faculty - he the librarian and she the English teacher (although now she has trouble with words) - their wedding, their honeymoon and, gradually, the other things they've been dealing with day by day.
Appropriately, director John Vreeke has left some rough edges in the staging: moments where it seems as if one or both of the characters won't be able to continue, but then they keep on going because they have to. Brotons and Kyd give such true, close-to-the-bone performances that they are sometimes painful to watch as they have to share the unthinkable with a room full of strangers.
An additional strain on press night was an electrical problem that meant that Brotons and Kyd had to perform under work lights rather than with Colin K. Bills' lighting design. They met the challenge admirably.