Review by Sean McQuaid
Dreams don’t always make sense. Take it from a guy who once spent most of a dream in a sing-along stock car rally teamed with Ray Charles and Anne Shirley (Ray was driving, naturally); but logical or not, true or not, dreams are often emotionally powerful. Sentimental and surreal, dream-spun drama Mary’s Wedding channels that power in spades.
Penned in 2002 by Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte, Mary’s Wedding takes place in a dream in 1920 the night before the titular Mary’s nuptials. Mary (played by Jenna Marie) dreams of her romance with Charlie (Adam Gauthier) — how they met, how they courted, and how World War I tore them apart.
This year marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I — also known, perversely, as “The Great War” — so Massicotte’s anti-war romance set during that conflict feels uniquely timely right now. It’s a smartly chosen project from indie producers Sandstone Theatre Company, as executed by director Paul Whelan, producer Grace Kimpinski and their collaborators.
While Sandstone is a new outfit, part of the draw here is the show’s established names: Gauthier and Whelan are both among PEI’s most able and accomplished actors, not to mention Whelan’s impressive track record as a director (his only role here), and Marie has done very fine work in smaller parts for ACT.
Gauthier’s Charlie is a charismatic, funny romantic lead, alternately frantic and stoic in war, often sad yet darkly serene as he drifts in and out of Mary’s dream; and Whelan’s capable direction, aided by stage manager Wallena Higgins, moves the Gauthier-Marie duo around their Watermark Theatre venue both smoothly and energetically with fluid blocking, a dreamily minimalist set and solid lighting and sound by Pat Caron.
Good as Gauthier is, Marie is arguably the better half of Whelan’s dream team in this production. Matching Gauthier in terms of charm and chops, hers is the most enduringly, hauntingly memorable presence of the two. It’s partly because she plays multiple roles, appearing in the dream not only as Mary but also as Charlie’s wartime sergeant; but even more impressive is how she navigates Mary’s dual function as both dream and dreamer.
Put another way, as written by Massicotte and directed by Whelan, Marie’s Mary is spectator or participant or both as various segments of her dream unfold, sometimes focused on action we can see onstage and sometimes fixated on something or someone offstage, and she’s fascinating either way. Marie’s emotional engagement in whatever Mary is seeing, tangible or not, is both credible and compelling.
A superb Gauthier-Marie performance, Whelan’s adroit direction and Kimpinski’s polished production values all help make this a great show, but the best part remains Massicotte’s brilliant script. Equal parts elegiac and rhapsodic, it’s an unflinching portrait of wartime horror and a charming, funny, deeply moving romance all in one, as filtered through a fragmentary dreamscape that often defies logic but always feels emotionally real and true.