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New Jersey by Bob Rendell

Mary's Wedding
Poetic Drama of First Love and War

Also see Bob's review of Augusta

Mary's Wedding
Erin Weaver and Joseph Binder
Playwright Stephen Massicotte's 2001 Canadian award winning Mary's Wedding has been widely produced in Canada and, increasingly, in the United States.  Like his three subsequent plays, Mary's Wedding is a work deeply enmeshed in historic events.  In this case, the events are the participation of Canada soldiers in support of England during World War I and a specific battle in which they participated toward the end of that conflict.  In no small part due to the emotionally affecting, unexpected direction which this 85-minute one-act play ultimately takes, Mary's Wedding proves to be a most satisfying theatrical experience.

Mary's Wedding is actually an extended, non-linear dream which Mary Chambers' is having on the night prior to her wedding.  Her dream takes us through the meeting and courtship of a teenaged Mary and her boyfriend, Charlie Edwards.  Mary and her family are newly arrived to Alberta from England.  Her mother disapproves of Charlie, a rambunctious, horse loving farm boy.  After Charlie enlists in the Canadian cavalry to join with England in fighting the Germans, he informs Mary of his military experiences in his letters to her. Charlie's letters describe his experiences through the war, including the historic and deadly battle of Moreuil Wood.  Finally, Mary envisions events and conversations which never occurred.  However, her dream in total enables her to clarify and resolve the emotional conflicts which she is experiencing in anticipation of her wedding.

Dreams regarding Charlie's wartime experiences are derived from his letters and thus largely products of Mary's imagination. The only other person actually depicted is Sgt. (later, Lt.) Gordon Flowerdew.  Flowerdew, who is an historic figure who was honored for extreme bravery at Moreuil Wood, is presented here as Charlie's battlefield buddy.  In her dream, Mary sees herself as being Flowerdew.  While it is common for a dreamer to project herself into roles and situations in which she could not have been, the device does feel a bit awkward.

Erin Weaver is a beautifully understated Mary.  Youthfully shy at the start, she conveys a growing maturity and strength with nary a false step.  Joseph Binder is an unaffected, boyishly enthusiastic Charlie.  His attempt to retain his boyish and enthusiastic determination even in the face of describing the horrors of trench warfare is touching.

Tennyson's poem "The Charge of the Light Brigade" plays a major thematic role in Mary's Wedding.  Although both like the poem, Mary likes it only for the poetry whereas Charlie regards it as an admonition to glory.  Mary regrets not having more strongly opposed Charlie's enlistment.  Eventually, Charlie learns from experience that the hell of a cavalry charge (into German machine guns) is not poetry.  However, Massicotte's description of it ("the long blades of grass blend together ... .) provides the most rousing poetic moment.  Daniel Goldstein's staging is pulsating here.  However, for the most part, the staging is fluid, clear and unobtrusive.  Donyale Werle's set, which most resembles the partially completed shell of an ark, is flexible enough to suggest the wide spaces of Alberta and the World War I trenches in France.

Eight years and four or more plays by Stephen Massicotte separate us from this early effort.   However, most Red Bank audiences will find that Two River's first rate production of Mary's Wedding offers the special pleasure of discovering a new and emerging playwright with impressive skills and solid potential.

Mary's Wedding continues performances (Evenings: Wednesday-Saturday 8 p.m./ Matinees: Tuesday 10 a.m.; Wednesday 1 p.m.; Saturday & Sunday 3 p.m.) through February 22, 2009 at the Two River Theatre Company, 21 Bridge Avenue, Red Bank, NJ 07701. Box Office: 732-345-1400; online: www.trtc.org.

Mary's Wedding by Stephen Massicotte; directed by Daniel Goldstein

Cast:
Charlie………………..Joseph Binder
Mary……………………...Erin Weaver


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- Bob Rendell



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