Pippa Wennberg and Neil Bonner shine in the Saint John Theatre Company’s remounted production of Mary’s Wedding under the detailed direction of Scott Thomas. It is the touching, sometimes gut-wrenching, tale of young love blossoming at the beginning of the Great War, WWI.
The story “begins at the end and ends at the beginning” as the audience is invited into Mary’s dream the night before her wedding. Chronology and geography are inconsequential as the audience is swept into a stream of Mary’s memories and musings.
The staging is clever and minimalistic as sawhorses are brought to life and thunder and artillery are easily interchanged. Wennberg charms the audience with her fluid dreamlike transitions between Mary, the young English girl who has crossed the Atlantic with her mother to live with the colonists, and Sergeant “Flowers” Flowerdew, Charlie’s cavalry regiment commander. Charlie, played by Bonner, engages the audience with his endearing portrayal of the lightning-fearing, horse-loving, awkward-tea-partaking farmhand-turned-soldier.
While it could be construed as your typical boy-meets-girl story, Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte’s brilliant and thoughtful script engulfs the audience into an array of emotions as Mary and Charlie meet and fall in love only for Charlie to enlist and head off to war.
The telling of the story is by far the best part. Mary’s dream flips from barn to battlefield in the blink of an eye, never leaving the audience behind, but rather, drawing us in to the tangled recollections of a young woman trying to come to grips with the merging of past and present.
Over the course of their courting, Mary helps Charlie overcome his fear of lightning, and Charlie helps Mary conquer her fear of horses. Their love is sparked early on by a rather sensual gallop when Charlie offers Mary a ride home after they have been caught in a thunderstorm.
Each scene is skillfully permeated with expertly timed projections and sound effects from sound operator/stage manager Kendra Murray. The images projected add to the depth of the experience, particularly when it comes to quickly transitioning from the heat of battle to the warmth of a birthday party.
The pacing of the production is orchestrated and executed beautifully by both Wennberg and Bonner as they shift smoothly through a non-linear dreamscape. Wennberg is entirely believable as she takes on this challenging role that requires her to switch quickly and frequently between excitable young woman and earnest army sergeant, all the while maintaining a convincing British accent. Both actors are magnetic and engaging in this mesmerizing production.
Ultimately, it is a story of heartache and learning to heal as both Charlie and Mary lovingly see one another in everything.
As the dream crescendos to its conclusion, sniffles are heard around the theatre.
Mary’s Wedding is well worth the time and tears spent. Do yourself a favour and do not miss it this time. It is not likely that the SJTC will launch it a third time! And, remember your hankie.
The show runs at Saint John Theatre Company’s BMO Theatre on Princess Street, June 11-13th at 7:30pm. Writer Stephen Massicotte will be in attendance for a Q&A session.