BWW Review: MARY'S WEDDING Fails to Strike an Emotional Chord, at Portland Center Stage

BWW Review: MARY'S WEDDING Fails to Strike an Emotional Chord, at Portland Center Stage

I'm all for a good wartime love story, especially a Canadian one. But Stephen Massicotte's MARY'S WEDDING, now playing at Portland Center Stage, never quite becomes the engrossing tragic historical romance it aspires to.

MARY'S WEDDING is presented as a dream that Mary has on the night before she gets married. The play traces Mary's romance with Charlie and their correspondence while Charlie is off fighting World War I. It has all of the right elements. First, there's a class conflict -- Mary is from England, of a higher class, while Charlie is a "dirty farm boy." There's adventure -- Charlie is an accomplished horseman and he volunteers for the cavalry unit in the war. There's plenty of scope for romance -- a scary thunderstorm, accidental-on-purpose encounters, and, of course, horses.

And there's a good dose of history. Gordon Flowerdew, Charlie's commanding officer in the play, was a real Canadian war hero who was awarded the Victoria Cross for his gallantry in the Battle of Moreuil Wood in 1918.

But, in this production, the pieces don't quite add up to a cohesive, emotional whole.

One of the problems comes at the very beginning, when Charlie pretty much tells you the plot. Once you know that it's the night before Mary's wedding and she isn't marrying Charlie, it doesn't take long to figure out what's going to happen. And there aren't enough surprises along the way to keep you engaged throughout the journey.

There's also a lack of chemistry between the two main characters, played by Alex J. Gould and Lexi Lapp. This must be a tough play to perform because it's more narrative than dialogue, so the characters spend most of the time talking to the audience rather than to each other. As a result, the romance never rises above the level of "sweet."

My favorite bits were when Lapp, by means of lowering her voice, became Flowerdew. The interactions between Charlie and his commanding officer were somehow more authentic than those between the Charlie and Mary.

I also liked G.W. Mercier's set, in which large logs on risers transformed from woods to horses and trenches. Though I was unsure about the stellar projections on the backdrop, especially this one shooting star that kept tracing the same path across the sky.

In an interview for a Seattle production 10 years ago, Massicotte described MARY'S WEDDING as "a very achy play" and "a real weepfest." I'm usually the first to cry at any hint of emotion, but this production just didn't strike the right chord.

MARY'S WEDDING runs through May 28 at Portland Center Stage. More details and tickets here.

Photo credit: Patrick Weishampel/blankeye.tv.


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