Brian Jacobson

Mary’s Wedding at Next Act Theatre

By - Sep 12th, 2009 12:50 am

Next Act brings an intimate, discordant dream in blue to its stage

Georgina McKee (Mary) and Braden Moran (Charlie) talk across time and space in Next Act Theatre's "Mary's Wedding"

Georgina McKee (Mary) and Braden Moran (Charlie) talk across time and space in Next Act Theatre’s “Mary’s Wedding”

Show: Mary’s Wedding
Runs: 9/10 to 10/11
Length: 90 minutes (no intermission)
Playwright: Stephen Massicotte
Director: Edward Morgan
Featuring: Georgina McKee and Braden Moran

First off, I’ll begin with a Spoiler Alert: (If you need to, skip ahead to the second paragraph. ) In playwright Stephen Massicotte’s dream memoir about a proper English girl in colonial Canada who falls for a simple farm boy, there is the inevitable heartbreak by having him go off to fight in World War I. You don’t know when or by what means he will be doomed, but you know you’ll need hankies. If the progressively shell-shocked soldier came home, it would have been a different play.

The distractingly beautiful Georgina McKee (Mary) and the strapping Braden Moran (Charlie) have the unenviable task of captivating a sold-out crowd in the  99-seat theater studio with a story and characters that live in the female lead’s 1914 head, told the night before her wedding six years into the future.

Audiences are intelligent enough to know that it’s a romance tale, anyway; aside from Mary’s dual role (by no means of costume or voice change but by abrupt conversation halt) as Charlie’s wartime friend Sgt. Flowerdew, there are no other actors onstage. When a polite boy, who is frightened by a storm, meets a kind girl taking shelter with him in the family’s barn — first love blossoms.

Georgina and Braden 2There is a Puck-ish introduction of sorts by Charlie as he stands outside of his persona. He directly tells the audience that this is a dream. Then, the therapy-like session and detailed narration by Mary begins in earnest. This introduction also serves to remind the audience that the play will leap around the timeline of the relationship. Unfortunately, it remains a bit jarring when the fluid back-and-forth exchanges move from memories to subconscious to war story, without warning.

The war story is perhaps the strongest section. Massicotte is a war history buff and accurately pens this part as a patriotic boy who is endeared to Tennyson’s “Charge of the Light Brigade” but finds a shattering difference between poetry and reality in the trenches. Moran as an actor seems stiff and uncomplicated at the beginning of the play, but you come to realize through his progression that ‘Charlie’ was written that way as a character. McKee seems authoritative and flowery at the start as the dreamy ‘Mary,’ but later you understand it’s a setup so the character can be crushed later.

Both actors are cast well and fulfill the play’s requirements. The creative use of barnyard scenery as props; plus, the well-timed sound and lighting (and lightning) effects are minimalistic but add to the subconscious narrative. The play device of jumping around in memory saves Mary’s Wedding from being a Hallmark Channel movie, and the quality of tenderness and quiet despair in the acting raise the drama to another level. While the actors eventually step out of a metronome pace, by the time they reach the tearjerk climax and fallout, the emotions feel palpable and wrenching.

It’s a great, quiet choice to start off the 20th season of Next Act Theatre. Although not a commentary on current wartime relationships, there are common themes that resonate and remain constant.

When all is said and done, however, the best part is the first kiss. In many plays, the kiss is a smack or moment of ebullience. Here, it’s a powerful and ultimately intimate moment that seals the play as a romance with loss — and Next Act’s purpose.

Mary’s Wedding continues at Next Act Theatre, (2nd floor of 342 N. Water St.) now until Oct. 11. For ticket information and more, visit the Next Act Theatre web site or call 414-278-0765. You can always find more stage details and information at partner website, Footlights Milwaukee.

0 thoughts on “Review: Mary’s Wedding at Next Act Theatre”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Writing plays requires writing poetry. The playwright did that pretty well and used it, elementally, to tell his story. These people took a good play and did it really well. The acting, direction, lighting, sound, set, costumes, the whole shebang is spot on. You’ll remember why you’re alive, and what more can ask from a night in a theatre?

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