Monday, July 21, 2008

Theater Review: Mary's Wedding

Rover Dramawerks has definitely kicked it up a notch with Mary's Wedding. Don't get me wrong, productions in the past have been quite enjoyable, but with Mary's Wedding they have everything going for it and they knocked it out of the park: a very strong two-person cast, powerful script, great design team, and a skilled director.

Set on the eve of Mary's wedding in 1920, the play takes us on a journey into her past when she first fell in love with Charlie. Playing with time and reality, we unravel their pure, innocent love that is hindered by the circumstances surrounding them. Mary is a young British high-class girl who runs into Charlie on her estate. They both quickly fall for each other, yet with World War I looming, Charlie keeps getting sent off to fight. Seeing each other sporadically and writing letters, Mary also must deal with her mother wanting her to marry a rich, secure man. Since the whole play is essentially a flashback and a dream, we never truly know what happens which makes the romance so powerful.

Just from listening to the play, you know the script is a toughie with tons of World War I talk and long, long, long monologues and letters. However, in the hands of director Lisa Devine, she is able to keep interest. You can see how hard she worked both actors and each segment of the play because of how easily it flows. The play keeps moving around in time, and yet with her vision, we are able to follow it so clearly. Not once did I get lost or wonder what the setting was, even though it could have happened so quickly with this script.

As for the two actors, Matt Savins and Julie Reinagel, they have such a huge burden of being on stage for the entirety of the play with tons of dialogue. Most of their speeches contain a plethora of imagery so it's up to both of them to paint a clear picture for us without getting bored. Savins gets to do most of the WWI 'recaps' and does it with so much movement and commitment to the words that we know exactly what is happening in the trenches. He excels incredibly at being the nervous young man around a girl he likes and we see his transformation throughout the war. He gives an extremely likable performance.

Reinagel has the task of playing Mary as well as Charlie's sergeant, making her switch from a sweet British lass to a hardass in a split second. She shows her amazing acting chops by being able to make this quick transformation, but it was her characterization of Mary that she showed her true skills. Every time she looked or talked about Charlie, you could feel how much love she had for him, thus making the emotions so genuine. With every fiber in her being she was able to convey her true love that by the end, when she feels hurt, we feel hurt.

As for the design team, the set by Clint Alan Ray was so effective and efficient even though it was just one simple set. Along with having tons of interesting levels, the actors were able to convert barn doors into horses, just by swinging it to the side. The lighting design by Dawn Wittke King also worked really well to change settings and scenes.

Another big plus to enhance Rover Dramawerks' success over the years was that since it was a regional premiere, the award-winning playwright, Stephen Massicotte, attended the matinee performance and participated in the talkback after the show. He offered some great insight into the characters and the script, and the overall response from the audience was how moving the play was.

To tell you the truth, history bores me to tears, but with this love story and these actors, you get a very moving time at the theatre. Mary's Wedding runs through August 2.