by Lynn on February 6, 2019

in The Passionate Playgoer


l-r Kate Ross, Fraser Elsdon
Photo: Dahlia Katz


At the Streetcar Crowsnest, 345 Carlaw Ave, Toronto, Ont.

Written by Stephen Massicotte

Directed by Kent Staines

Set by David Boechler

Lighting by Jason Hand

Sound and composition by Creighton Doane

Costumes by Trysha Bakker

Cast: Fraser Elsdon

Kate Ross

A gentle, beautiful love story against a backdrop of war, all done with elegant simplicity.

The Story. It’s the day before Mary’s wedding. She’s dreaming about all sorts of things.  Mary came to Canada from England with her parents. They settled in a farming community and she met Charlie, an awkward, sweet farm boy during a thunder storm. He was in the barn, afraid of the thunder and lightening and she ran in there seeking shelter because she’d been walking. She calmed him. He rode her home on his horse when the storm subsided. The spark of friendship to love ignited in that barn. They made sure they ‘accidentally’ met each other on their travels around the area. They went to a dance and fell in love more and more. The First World War was declared and Charlie felt it was his responsibility to go and fight. He wrote to Mary often when he was away. And now it was the day before her wedding.

The Production. David Boechler’s set is simple: there is a slightly inclined platform leading up to a ledge on which to sit. Suspended above is a rectangular slatted screen. Trysha Bakker has designed a simple white dress for Mary (Kate Ross) and farm clothes (boots, farm pants held up by suspenders and a work shirt) for Charlie (Fraser Elsdon).

A tall, slim young man in farm work clothes tells us it’s the day before Mary’s wedding. He is Charlie. Mary comes forward and tells us who she is: from England to Canada with her parents and she loves it. Her mother, a snob we soon learn, doesn’t like living in rustic Canada.  We also know that Mary’s Mother doesn’t approve of Mary’s attachment to Charlie. Of course why would she, he is a ‘dirty farm boy’ as Mary tells us. It doesn’t matter, Charlie and Mary love each other.  And one gets the sense that because of his innate charm Charlie eventually wears down the starchy attitude of Mary’s Mother.

Kate Ross as Mary and Fraser Elsdon as Mary both act with a quiet grace and tenderness. Their thrilling feelings for each other are also obvious. Kate Ross illuminates Mary’s heart and strength in this fine performance. Mary and Charlie give each other strength and that is so clear in these performances.

Over time Charlie gains confidence and becomes less and less awkward. With Elsdon’s thoughtful performance you know that Charlie did not come to the decision to enlist, lightly. And you never get the sense, either in Stephen Massicotte’s play or the performance, that Charlie treats this as an adventure. He’s properly scared and should be.

I don’t think it matters that Kate Ross and Fraser Elsdon are a couple in real life as much as it matters that their wonderful performances make the audience want them to be a couple in real life too.

Director Kent Staines has directed this with a sensitive, spare hand. The love story of Mary and Charlie is almost chaste but you are never in doubt of their love for each other without using heavy body language, petting, and constant kissing. When they do kiss, it’s almost a relief to them and us.

Just as playwright Stephen Massicotte has not shied away from the brutality of war, neither has Staines. There is the terrifying sound of bombs dropping, which makes Charlie think of thunder that paralyzes him in fear. Massicotte deals with the love story in the most poetic of language. And he conveys the horrors of war as well in the most poetic of language but in a different way. It’s subtle but effective. We never feel he is romanticizing war. He’s just dealing with it in a less stereotypical way.

Comment. Stephen Massicotte’s very popular, award-winning play is almost twenty years old. This is its first performance in Toronto, which seems astonishing, but true. I’ve seen it a few times, elsewhere. It never fails to squeeze the heart. This production did too.

Produced by Solo Productions.

Opened: Feb. 1, 2019.

Closes: Feb. 16, 2019.

Running Time:  85 minutes.


Leave a Comment

Respectful comments are accepted on this site as long as they are accompanied by a verifiable name and a verifiable e-mail address. Posts that are slanderous, libelous or personally derogatory will not be approved.