by Annie Sadovsky Koepf
It doesn’t seem to matter what else is going on in the world; people meet and fall in love. Mary’s Wedding, by Canadian author Stephen Massicotte, is set against the backdrop of World War I. Although another pandemic raged during that time, it is not referenced during the play. However, the war itself is ever-present in the script. The opening scene shows Mary on the eve of her wedding. The play then progresses backward to a range of scenes depicting her relationship with Charlie, the young farm boy with whom she falls in love. The tenderness, joy, and even awkwardness of first love is skillfully played out with a series of vignettes. The scenes are nonlinear, but quickly the audience can see their relationship blossom and grow against the backdrop of the Canadian West as well as the battlegrounds of Europe during The Great War.
Susan Arnold, the director, masterfully directs the actors to flawlessly change from one scene to the next. She uses the entire stage to give some boundaries and context to where the action is in time and space. Quickly, the audience knows where we are: the farm in Alberta, or the trenches in Europe. Additionally, Maggie Josephine McNeil plays two characters, a male and a female. Often the change in characters is seen only by moving from one part of the stage to the other. As the play is about Mary’s dream, she remains in her nightgown throughout, so we really pause our disbelief as far as why she is portraying a man on the battlefield dressed this way. There is language in the play that clarifies this for us as Charlie imagines that he sees Mary everywhere and in everyone.
McNeil is artful in her portrayal of both Mary and the sergeant. When the play opened, I thought, “Who is this young British actress? Perhaps she is a recent graduate of The University of Arizona.” Yes, she is indeed a recent graduate, but not British. She and fellow castmate Stephen Dunham credit their accents to David Morden from U of A, who served as their dialect coach. Not only was her dialect perfect for both of the characters, but they were really developed with full ranges of emotion and believability.
Stephen Dunham, Charlie, reminded me of my first boyfriend from New Brunswick. Being Canadian, I must admit, I have a special softness still for all things Canadian. The gee, gosh, shucks simplicity and youthful enthusiasm were aptly portrayed by him. When he enlists, I was reminded of my mother, who served as a nurse during WW2. She felt she had to represent her family as her brothers weren’t able to serve. That sense of duty to country was totally embodied in Charlie. The sense of honor and privilege no matter what the outcome was truthfully shown. Dunham masterfully used his physicality in the scenes in the trenches as well as the sweet moments with McNeil.
McNeil and Dunham had never met until the first rehearsal. I was impressed by their tender scenes of physical intimacy. I was heartened to know that an Intimacy Director, Matt Denney, was used to help them have a safe space to create these scenes. I applaud Scoundrel & Scamp for being sensitive to the issues that intimate interactions can create for actors.
I would be remiss if I did not mention the sound and lighting. With a simple set basically of wooden pieces representing the barn, we were often transported to the battlefield, or to a lightning storm through the lighting and special sound effects. Tiffer Hill’s sound design made me feel like I was in the middle of a thunderstorm with all the fury that they can portray. Raulie Martinez’s lighting mirrored the action going on, from a charming afternoon in town to shelling on the battlefield. Robert Lopez-Hanshaw’s beautiful original score perfectly mirrored the mood of each moment of the play.
Every minute of this play was savored by me. I was uplifted, given hope, shown resilience, and most of all, regained that intimacy that only live theater can give an audience. It feels wonderful to be back to that which we love. All adult audiences will love this tender award- winning play. Please do yourself a favor and savor every moment as I did.
Mary’s Wedding runs at The Scoundrel & Scamp Theatre through November 7th. Tickets may be purchased online at https://scoundrelandscamp.org/ or by calling the S&S Box Office at (520) 448-3300. S&S is spacing seating, requiring patrons to wear masks while in the theatre, provide proof of vaccination OR proof of a negative COVID test at the time of check-in, and using enhanced cleaning and sanitization protocols. For their full policies and safety parameters, please visit https://scoundrelandscamp.org/covid-safety-parameters.