Two young people–Mary (Lexi Lapp) and Charlie (Alex J. Gould) meet, by chance, in a thunderstorm. But it’s a dream. These things happen. Moments later, they are “fearless and flying,” falling in love on the back of a horse.
Mary’s Wedding by Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte, now on stage in the Ellyn Bye Studio at Portland Center Stage, is not about Mary’s wedding per se, but rather Mary’s dream the night before her wedding. It’s a complex dream spanning a few brief years. Innocent love blossoms in quaint, rural Canada where hard work is a given, mothers are strict, and everyone is expected to do their share.
When World War I begins, Canada steps up to do its share, sending thousands of troops and horses to the European battle front. Small surprise that our hero Charlie is among them. Memories are thick, piled high in shared letters. The war changes everything for Charlie and Mary, but in life, as in the dream, they continue to plow forward as best they can.
This sleeper of a play premiered in 2002, and has been produced in more than 100 venues since then. Throughout it, I could not stop comparing it to Our Town. It is a small gem that resonates with the big universal themes of who we are, what we stand for, and how we as humans behave, not just during those fleeting, joyous times, but when the big, horrible things in life occur.
Mary, wandering the stage in her white nightgown, perfectly symbolizes Canada before the Great War. Charlie goes from farm boy to soldier in a heartbeat, and then back again–shy, kind, sympathetic, the soul of goodness. The brilliantly simple set of bare logs, the sounds of thunder that presage the horror of the trenches, and the solid theme of horses in peace and in war, build this enchanting and unforgettable play into more than the sum of its parts.
Directed by Brandon Wooley, Mary’s Wedding runs through May 28 at the Armory.