November 16, 2018

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Love and war

Anniversary of the armistice makes it an ideal time for production of wartime romance

You wouldn’t know it from the title but Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte’s two-hander drama Mary’s Wedding is a story of war and remembrance.

It’s also a dream.

This is announced as soon as the lights come up on this oft-moving 75-minute, intermission-free drama. Charlie (Justin Fry) is a farm boy in Alberta and he immediately reveals the subconscious nature of the narrative, primarily set in the year 1920, two years after the armistice that ended the First World War.

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You wouldn’t know it from the title but Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte’s two-hander drama Mary’s Wedding is a story of war and remembrance.

It’s also a dream.

This is announced as soon as the lights come up on this oft-moving 75-minute, intermission-free drama. Charlie (Justin Fry) is a farm boy in Alberta and he immediately reveals the subconscious nature of the narrative, primarily set in the year 1920, two years after the armistice that ended the First World War.

Sarah Flynn and Justin Fry perform a sample of 'Mary's Wedding' at Rachel Browne Theatre Tuesday.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Sarah Flynn and Justin Fry perform a sample of 'Mary's Wedding' at Rachel Browne Theatre Tuesday.

It is the eve of the titular event. Mary (Sarah Flynn) is a young woman who immigrated to Canada with her family. On the eve of her wedding, she dreams of Charlie, her first love..

In one aspect, theirs’ is a story of star-crossed love. Charlie is a rough-and-tumble Prairie farm boy. Mary, coming from a comparatively posh family, takes emergency refuge in his family’s barn during a thunderstorm. When he gives her a ride home on horseback, the neighbourly gesture takes on the additional weight of sexual arousal for both of them, though neither can define that. Mary’s mother wants her to stop seeing the lad. But Mary manoeuvres around her, contriving to meet Charlie for horseback lessons.

That background implies that the play proceeds in a chronological order, but it does not. Interwoven with that romantic thread is another story of how Charlie is compelled to join the ranks of 60,000 Canadian soldiers who volunteer to go to war to support England in the war with Germany. In the letters he sends to Mary, Charlie reports of his initial excitement of crossing the ocean and getting a glimpse of King George V as the monarch inspects the ranks. He also forms a friendship with a sergeant named Flowerdew (also portrayed by Flynn) who takes the scared Canadian kid under his wing as the lad suffers through the unrelenting carnage of trench warfare.

PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Mary’s Wedding opens the season of Theatre Projects Manitoba, but the opening actually took place last month when the play did a tour through rural Manitoba in TPM’s Interlake Chautauqua project. The portable nature of the play — two actors, and a minimalist set — lends itself to small stages. But this Rachel Browne Theatre iteration fully uses the stage space via a rustic-looking set design by Rebekah Enns, mostly consisting of ladders and sawhorses.

Theatre review

Click to Expand

Mary’s Wedding
Theatre Projects Manitoba
● Rachel Browne Theatre
● To Nov. 18
● Tickets $15 to $27 at theatreprojectsmanitoba.ca
★★★1/2 stars out of five

Director Sarah Constible puts these young actors through their paces physically, as they themselves arrange the set pieces to represent everything from trenches to tea parties. But more importantly, Constible taps into the youth of her actors, whose raw-boned energy and emotion surge like the thunder that explodes frequently courtesy of Matthew Waddell’s impressive sound design.

The play’s run encompasses Remembrance Day on Nov. 11 and that is appropriate on the centenary of the armistice. But there is also a gentle irony to it in the context of a show that allows some leeway for the tender mercy of forgetting.

randall.king@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @FreepKing

Randall King

Randall King
Reporter

In a way, Randall King was born into the entertainment beat.

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