By Stephen Massicotte
Directed by Mark Ulrich
Produced by Rivendell Theatre Ensemble
At Raven Theatre
Beautiful romantic and tragic tale unfolds as a theatrical gem
“Tonight is just a dream . . . it begins at the end and ends at the beginning.” -Charlie from Mary’s Wedding
It is amazing how Artistic Director Tara Mallen and the folks at Rivendell Theatre find such an outstanding assortment of excellent new plays to produce. Their latest gem is Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte’s 2002 drama, Mary’s Wedding, now playing at Raven Theatre’s west stage.
Mary’s Wedding is a non-linear style dream-scape memory romantic tale that is a lovely and wonderfully touchingly gem!
The press notes state: “Mary’s Wedding starts as a typical romantic story of young love between a new British immigrant to Canada Mary (Cassandra Bissel) and a “dirty farm boy on a horse” Canadian Charlie (Shane Kenyon). When Mary and Charlie unexpectedly find one another sheltering in a barn during a thunderstorm, a tentative first love is born. However, the year is 1914, and Mary and Charlie must surrender their love and their fate to the uncertainties of a world on the brink of war. Charlie, an expert horseman, volunteers and joins the Canada Calvary. Unfortunately, Charlie becomes a statistic, joining the 60,000 Canadian soldiers (out of ten million combatant fatalities) who perish in the War. Now, Mary unable to let go, begins to live in a world where nothing is as it appears, blurring the line between reality and memories and fact and fantasy.”
Told as a memory, flashback play, Mary’s Wedding evolves into a sad, yet inspirational drama. It pulls at our heartstrings as we get to know Chalie–played with simple honesty, innocence and an infectious boyish charm by Shane Kenyon. This is a star-making role for Kenyon as he transforms us from the farm boy and horseman from the Canadian plains to the idealistic soldier bent on doing his part in the Great War. He has marvelous chemistry with the fabulous deeply nuanced and effectively spunky young transplanted English girl, Mary–played understated sensuality and rich depth by Cassandra Bissell. Bissell doubles as Sergent Flowers, Charlies buddy in the French trenches. The chemistry between Kenyon and Bissell evokes truth as it heightens romantic sparks.
Massicotte’s script is Mary’s dream that moves back and forth in time between Charlie and Mary’s days in Canada to war scenes and back without any confusion. The horse and thunderstorm metaphors works nicely as does the verbalizing of Charlies’ letters. The skilled players make these time memories work effectively.
Director Mark Ulrich uses Elvia Moreno’s barn and sandbag set to create workable illusions. The show’s pacing and movements builds the dramatic romantic elements while nicely keeping us involved in the story while building the mystery of- if and when- Charlie and Mary will be able to be together after the War. The cavalry charge depictions served as terrific imagery ideal for a idealistic soldier like Charlie. Massicotte’s play decries the folly of war with being preachy.
This wonderful tearjerker nicely blends Mary’s dream related memories of her first love that haunts her as she struggles to come to grips with her first love on the eve of her marriage in 1920. There was hardly a dry eye at the show’s end. This tragic tale is beautifully acted as we quickly get to admire Charlie heroism while we empathize with Mary’s heartbreak and her genuine goodness. Mary’s Wedding is a tour de force for Shane Kenyon and Cassandra Bissell. Don’t miss this romantically powerful drama.
At Raven Theatre’s west stage, 6157 N. Clark Street, Chicago, IL, Tickets $22, Call 773-334-7728