Saturday, October 04, 2014

Mary's Wedding is a dreamlike experience to embrace

Maya Sugarman and Conner Neddersen in Mary's Wedding (Chris Bennion)

Mary’s Wedding
New Century Theatre Company
(at West of Lenin)
Through October 11, 2014

(printed in Seattle Gay News)

Two shy teenagers at the start of World War I fall in love and cope with class, war, first crushes, honor, and duty in New Century Theatre Company’s production of Mary’s Wedding by Stephen Massicotte. This production is a shift for the small company in that the actors, Maya Sugarman and Conner Neddersen, have not been company members. This moves New Century Theatre Company into a producer mode, then.

But the panache with which the production is mounted and presented is well within the NCTC esthetic. The setting is a barn and set/light designer Brian Sidney Bembridge, and the company, found a real old demolished barn and recreated a chunk of it inside West of Lenin. Adding incandescent bulbs to represent stars and lightning and sunlight is a beautiful touch. Director John Langs brings a delicate sensibility to the play including minimal staging that turns hay bales into horses and a few sandbags into an army bunker.

The actors are a revelation, even if the script is a bit predictable. Each has entrancing moments where they win the audience over while they flirt with each other. Their intensity and emotional vulnerability are lovely to see. Sugarman has the slightly more complex role as she morphs from a young teenage girl into an army sergeant without moving a muscle. The entire play is a dream sequence, so she does not have to “change” into the sergeant, she just has to “become” him. Isn’t that how dreams work?

A young man, Charlie, it turns out, comes out to tell us that what we’re about to see is a dream the night before Mary’s wedding. Then Mary appears to tell us about the dream which always starts, she says, at the same place, at the end. Flipping backward and forward in dreamland, we are shown how Mary, a British girl recently moved to Canada, and Charlie, a Canadian farm boy, meet and fall in love.

They don’t speak of love, though, in the typically shy ways of the early 20th Century. But it’s also clear that Mary’s family disapproves of Charlie from a class standpoint, and perhaps that dooms their relationship from the start. But they persist until the war starts and Charlie feels duty-bound to enlist and do his part. At that point, they communicate by Charlie’s letters, though the script smartly recreates what he’s writing.

Charlie finds a mentor in his sergeant who empathizes with Charlie’s love of Mary, and who tells Charlie that Charlie will see Mary “everywhere.” Hence, whenever the sergeant speaks, he actually looks like Mary! It’s a pungent demonstration of being distracted by love even in the midst of war.

This is a lovely piece of theater with an immersive environment and feelings that will be familiar to anyone who has had a first love. The only misstep is the overuse of lush orchestral underscoring later in the play that is so unnecessary, it undercuts the scene. Otherwise, it’s theatricality at a very high level, which is what we expect from NCTC.

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