War Romance Passionate in 'Wedding'; Richly Realized Sets Support Finely Acted Lover Portrayals

Article excerpt

Byline: Jayne Blanchard, THE WASHINGTON TIMES

The trouble with the Iraqi conflict? A dearth of wartime romance. Not like World War I, where soldiers and their sweethearts courted to the strains of "Lili Marlene," and the prevailing sense of doom was misted over with ingenuous devotion to both girl and country.

The images of a visibly pregnant Pfc. Lynndie England at her court-martial trial, not to mention her leering poses with Iraqi inmates at Abu Ghraib prison, are reasons enough to send you running to the Theater Alliance's production of "Mary's Wedding," which portrays love during war with innocence, grace and finely tuned emotion.

The production of Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte's dreamlike, stunningly visual play is further enlivened by beautifully etched performances by Kathleen Coons and Aubrey Deeker as the lovers - Mary, a recent transplant to Canada from England, and Charlie, a rough-hewn country boy with an ardor for horses. Their feelings, which blindside them on a horseback ride in a dramatic electrical storm, put you in mind of the grand passion of Catherine and Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights," the vastness of their love mirroring the wild tangle of nature.

Only it is the Canadian countryside, not the English moors, that is the setting for "Mary's Wedding," which traces in nimble loops and arcs the story of Mary and Charlie from their first meeting to his heroism in WWI battles (particularly the charge at Moreuil Wood) and, finally, to the tragic fallout from war. Mr. Massicotte takes a nonlinear approach to the story, starting with Mary's wedding two years after the war and going backward and forward, giving the play the time-suspended dynamics of a dream.

This feeling is heightened by the production's sets and soundscape, which are simple yet richly evocative. Director Jeremy Skidmore has chosen his visual elements with a connoisseur's eye - the stage is shrouded in dusty plum light, an ever-changing horizon visible from the eaves of a barn, and scattered about are a few wooden posts that stand in for everything from charging horses to battlefield barricades. With these stark, exquisitely chosen elements, Mr. Skidmore creates a mood at once timeless and wistfully nostalgic. …