by Lynn on July 9, 2024

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Lighthouse Festival, Port Dover, Ont. Playing until July 20, 2024.

Written by Stephen Massicotte

Directed by Derek Ritschel

Set by William Chesney

Costumes by Alex Amini

Lighting by Wendy Lundgren

Sound by Tim Lindsay

Cast: Daniel Reale

Evelyn Wiebe

Intensely emotional. A bitter-sweet, gentle play about love and war.

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 Mary saying goodbye to him, but 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.  William Chesney has designed a multi-leveled set with planks here and there that could be a barn or the trenches etc.  Alex Amini has designed the costumes that are simple and effective. Charlie (Daniel Reale) wears a shirt, suspenders and army pants and boots. Mary (Evelyn Wiebe) is dressed in what could be a white nightgown or a long dress.  Tim Lindsay’s soundscape captures the nearing thunder storm, and its receding. It could be the bombs of the war as well.  So that melding of the technical aspects of the production beautifully establishes the world of

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, Evelyn Wiebe is forthright, confident and sweet. She has a consistent English accent that is endearing. She is compassionate about Charlie’s fear of thunder and charmed by him. As Charlie Daniel Reale is initially our narrator. He 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 Daniel Reale 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; dancing as well. Daniel Reale is almost awkward around Mary, he likes her so much but is unsure it will be returned. But he shines in the scenes in the war. He is terrified, thrilled, excited and compelling. Evelyn Wiebe also has many emotional moments which are heart-squeezing.

Director Derek Ritschel has realized the beating heart of the piece, the awkwardness and intensity of first love. This is also one of the most emotional rendering of the play that I’ve seen. Very moving. Bring Kleenex.

Lighthouse Festival presents:

Plays until July 20, 2024.

Running time: 2 hours (1 intermission)

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