compared to those that use the Second World War or Vietnam asa framing device. It’s been a little over a century since the Armistice, andwhile there have been a few books and films on the subject – like Sam Mendes’ 1917 – “The Great War” just doesn’toccupy the collective consciousness of the American public; probably because ofthe half-dozen or so wars that followed “the war to end all wars.”
Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte’s Mary’s Wedding,running now at Sebastopol’s Main Stage West through Feb. 1, deals with theromanticism and realities of war as experienced by two young residents ofAlberta, Canada – Charlie Edwards (Sam Coughlin) and Mary Chalmers (ShariaPierce).
Charlie enters the theatre and informs the audience that it’s1920 and tomorrow is Mary’s wedding. What we will be seeing is the dream Maryhas the night before her betrothal. We see how the two met and their awkwardcourtship. We hear how Mary’s upper crust British mother disapproves of herrelationship with a “colonial”. We learnthat Charlie will soon be off to war.
Mary’s dream floats between their time together and theirtime apart. Charlie’s letters home to Mary come to life as the realities of thehorrors of trench warfare and mustard gas overtake the perceptions of glory andhonor that accompany battle. Charlie, whose only remembrance of literature learnedat school is Alfred, Lord Tennyson’s The Charge of the Light Brigade,soon finds himself riding into the Valley of Death.
Part memory play, part fantasy, and part Ken Burns PBSdocumentary-influenced historical drama, Mary’s Wedding is an incrediblyeffective piece of theatre. Director Missy Weaver’s deft handling ofMassicotte’s script manages to make the multiple transitions of time and spacefeel seamless. This is due in no small part to the performances of Coughlin andPierce. Working with not much more thana few hay bales, a saw horse, a helmet, and an umbrella, the actors make you seethem astride a horse, or on a ship, or deep in a trench.
The wedding gown-draped Pierce also plays Charlie’scommanding officer, which as strange as it sounds, actually works quite wellfor reasons that are made clear in the play.
Can the totality of the cost of war be absorbed by a singleindividual? Mary’s Weddingreminds us that, sadly, for millions the answer is “yes”.
‘Mary’s Wedding’ runs through February 1 at Main Stage West in Sebastopol.Thursday through Saturday evening performances are at 8pm; the Sunday matineeis at 5pm.
For more information, go to mainstagewest.com