With elegant imagery, “Mary’s Wedding” is a heartwarming story of young love, regret and loss in which Canadian playwright Stephen Massiciotte uses World War I to frame the events of this one-act play. The staging at Actors Theatre invites the audience into the relationship between Mary and Charlie, who form a bond that distance, war or death cannot divide. “Mary’s Wedding” is also an invitation into Mary’s memories, a space in which moments in time ebb and flow, with one memory of Charlie, her first love, gently and gracefully giving way to another.
The night before her wedding, Mary (Nell Geisslinger), a vivacious young woman, dreams of Charlie (Will Rogers), an innocent and awkward farm boy. Their story begins on the Canadian plains shortly before the start of the Great War. As she sleeps, Mary remembers her first moments with Charlie — meeting him in a barn while dodging a storm. Charlie, who developed a fear of thunderstorms as a child, puts on a brave face. Yet, it is Mary who explains that storms always pass and calms him by reciting a Tennyson poem, “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”
The poem depicts an infamous and catastrophic cavalry charge in 1854 during the Crimean War. The poem juxtaposes the glory and honor soldiers can earn in war — especially those who die bravely — and the mortality of combat.
Once Mary and Charlie recite the verses, there is little doubt about Charlie’s fate after he joins the Canadian Calvary and crosses the Atlantic Ocean to fight the Germans.
From the mud-filled trenches of northern France, Charlie begins writing Mary letters that allow her to piece together his life “over there.” The story develops into a 90-minute dream filled with images of courtship interspersed with images of war. Sometimes Mary’s memories mix. One particularly poignant scene juxtaposes Charlie counting between the flash of lightning and sound of thunder in the barn, and Charlie later counting the seconds between flashes of mortar fire and when shells explode near his trench.
Mary’s memories vividly illustrate her time with Charlie and his days in France, and under the guidance of director Marc Masterson, these memories come close to being tangible, sensory creations. You can almost smell the hay in the barn as Charlie tries to calm himself and his horse. You can nearly feel the electricity in the air when the lightning flashes. Mary vividly recounts an exhilarating horseback ride down to the number of times a passing bird flicks its wings. You can just about smell Charlie’s fear and adrenaline when he leads his own charge in battle on horseback.
The sparse set and simple, round wooden floor in the Bingham Theatre lend the play a hand. Not having much to go on, one begins imagining sloppy trenches, cavalry charges and dusty barns. It all adds up to Actors Theatre constructing a touching story about revering those who make the ultimate sacrifice in war and discovering that life goes on after loss.