Mary’s Wedding opened this week at Streetcar Crowsnest. It was first performed in 2002 and even though it’s been performed professionally more than 100 times across Canada and around the world this is the first time it’s been professionally performed in Toronto. Director Kent Staines production is wonderful, worth waiting for.
The play is set just before, during, and just after World War I. It opens with one of the characters, Charlie (Fraser Elsdon) telling the audience that this is June 1920, the night before Mary’s (Kate Ross) wedding and what follows is just a dream. He says that it begins at the end and ends at the beginning. It took me until I was writing this to understand what that meant.
Mary and her parents have just immigrated from England to the farming community where Charlie lives. He works on the family farm and loves to ride. Mary is afraid of horses. They meet in a barn where they both take shelter from a thunder storm. Charlie is afraid of thunder. Mary helps him to deal with the fear by distracting himself. Together they recite “The Charge of the Light Brigade” by Tennyson, a poem they both learned in school.
Elsdon and Ross are both marvelous actors. They are completely believable in the early scenes as their attraction to each other develops but neither wants to be the first one to say or do anything to acknowledge it just in case the other one doesn’t feel the same way. “We were playing a game,” Mary says, “It’s called ‘Try not to let your heart fly out of your mouth.’ ”.
Mary goes to town to get the mail every day so she can run into Charlie. Getting letters changes the time frame, sometimes there’s a letter from Charlie in France. The scenes shift seamlessly between Mary in Canada and Charlie at war. Ross also plays Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, Charlie’s sergeant – known as ‘Flowers’.
It is so impressive to watch Elsdon switch back and forth from awkward young farm boy to scared young soldier to passionate adult without ever missing a beat. Watching Ross switch from Mary to Flowers is no less awesome.
Playwright Stephen Massicotte’s script is perfection. His language is lyrical, evocative, and slightly old-fashioned which fits the time that he’s writing for. The dialogue switches seamlessly between the war scenes and the pre-war scenes. Before the war there are some very funny lines but then the mood shifts and there’s no room for humour. The characters develop significantly as the play and the war progresses. It’s amazing given that the play is only 85 minutes long.
I love how much opportunity there is for imagination in this production. David Boechler’s set is very plan, a wide ramp with a low wall at the top of it. Jason Hand’s lighting and Creighton Doane’s sound worked together perfectly to create realistic battle scenes and storms.
Trysha Bakker has dressed the characters very simply, Charlie in work shirt, pants, braces, and boots and Mary in a nightie and slippers. There are no costume changes but I swear I could see Charlie in a uniform and Mary in a wedding dress.
I absolutely loved Mary’s Wedding. It was outstanding. I highly recommend it. Take tissues! This isn’t just weepy me, half the audience was crying.
- Mary’s Wedding is playing until February 16 at Streetcar Crowsnest, (345 Carlaw Ave)
- Performances are Monday through Saturday at 8:00pm with matinees on Wednesday at 1:00pm and Saturday at 2:00pm
- Tickets range from $25 to $50
- Tickets are available online, and at the door.
Photo of Kate Ross and Fraser Elsdon by Dahlia Katz Photography