by Lynn on November 3, 2023

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the St. Jacobs Country Playhouse, St. Jacobs, Ont. Produced by Drayton Entertainment. Plays until November 12, 2023.

Written by Stephen Massicotte

Directed by Skye Brandon

Set by Douglas Paraschuk

Costumes by Joanne Lee

Lighting by Kevin Fraser

Sound by Peter McBoyle

Cast: Ellen Denny

Dante Jemmott

A beautiful ache of a production and play, done exquisitely as a tribute to Marti Maraden.

Note: As the programme states, Marti Maraden was a towering presence in the theatre, first as an actress then as a director. She was supposed to direct this production but took ill when she was on vacation in August, was hospitalized and unfortunately passed away. The loss to the theatre is immeasurable. Skye Brandon was directed by Marti Maraden and considered her a mentor. She considered him a protégé. He has stepped in to direct the production and he has done Marti and the play proud.

The Story. It’s 1920, the day before Mary’s wedding. She dreams of a time a few years before, of a thunderstorm and the first time she met and probably fell in love with Charlie, a young man about her age. Because of the thunderstorm, Mary found shelter in a barn. There she saw Charlie and his horse. Charlie was cowering in fear of the thunder. He still found the ability to calm his also terrified horse. Mary calms Charlie as well after they introduce themselves. She has recently arrived from England with her parents. Charlie is a local farm boy in the prairies. When the storm passes Charlie returns to his usual self. He offers Mary a ride home on his horse. Her mother is not happy about Mary meeting what she describes ‘as a dirty farm boy.’ A friendship forms between the two young people and that slowly grows into love.

World War I is raging in Europe. When Canada joins the war effort Charlie feels it’s his duty to sign up. Mary is upset by this. They have a fight and Charlie goes off to war without seeing her to say good bye, but they write each other often. Charlie writes her the most personal letters. Their love grows deeper and it leads up to the day before Mary’s wedding.

The Production and comment. Douglas Paraschuk’s beautiful, simple set creates the sense of both the prairies, with simple fencing and shafts of wheat waving in a breeze, and the war. In one corner of the fencing are sandbags that could suggest the war or the farm. Kevin Fraser’s lighting creates the sense of either a blazing red-orange sunset or sunrise. Peter McBoyle’s soundscape captures the nearing thunder storm, and its receding. It could be the bombs of the war as well. Joanna Lee’s costumes are a lovely dress for Mary and work pants and a shirt of Charlie. So that melding of the technical aspects of the production beautifully establishes the world of Mary (Ellen Denny) and Charlie (Dante Jemmott). And the absence of sound heightens the quiet of the prairies. Love that.

Stephen Massicotte has written an ache of a play about an enduring love, compassion, friendship, doing one’s duty and the horrors of war. It’s about how differences don’t matter when the similarities are so aligned, as Mary’s and Charlie’s are. Her mother is a snob when she refers to Charlie as ‘that dirty farm boy.’ Mary ignores it. She is so eager to see him again as he is eager to see her again after that first meeting.

As Mary, Ellen Denny has a consistent English accent that is endearing. She is confident, impish, compassionate about Charlie’s fear of thunder and charmed by him. As Charlie, Dante Jemmott is initially our narrator. He appears in silhouette, a specter in a fitting way, and tells us the year and what will happen the next day. But first he tells us it’s the day before Mary’s wedding and she is dreaming of everything that leads up to this moment.

When Charlie is properly introduced to us Dante Jemmott as Charlie is as shy as Mary is confident—one imagines her snob mother might have tried to instill that attitude in her young daughter, but Mary is also compassionate and understanding. Charlie has the confidence of place. He was born on the prairies and is confident with horses. He can show Mary his confidence and compassion in his own way. The awkwardness they both initially have with each other grows into easy love, affection and trust. Charlie is willing to go into strange territory for Mary, having tea at her house for example.

Director Skye Brandon has realized the beating heart of the piece and been true to it. He inherited the physical aspects of the production—the set, costumes, lighting, costumes and sound that had been chosen by Marti Maraden—and created the most exquisite, graceful, loving production of two people falling in love but caught in the horrors of a world at war.

Mary’s Wedding has such a gentleness and mystery about it. It takes place in the early part of the last century, but it’s true and applicable to any time. A terrific production.    

Drayton Entertainment presents:

Plays until Nov. 12, 2023.

Running time: 90 minutes (no intermission)

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