Actors shine brightly in a timeless love story
Two-person play keeps audience fully mesmerized
It is a shame that Mary’s Wedding, produced by all for One Productions, only has three more performances at the PPG ArtsLab. This is as fine a piece of theater as will hit the boards in Fort Wayne this season. My kudos and superlatives go out to all those involved in this production, everyone was doing exceptional work.
However, the success of a production always starts with the actors. Regardless of the technical expertise a production exhibits, without strong acting, success will never be achieved. Fortunately, this two-person play was cast with two wonderful actors.
Jessica Munsie and Cooper Beer mesmerize the audience for 100 minutes: with no intermission. They bring to life two lovable and compelling characters who tell an endearing and moving story about young people falling in love. And when complications occur in the life of these two people, as it must in theater, these two actors are capable of drawing from the entire palette of human emotion.
The complication of what otherwise would be an ordinary mundane love story comes when World War I breaks out. The play reveals their story as a dream in Mary’s mind, as time and place seamlessly jump back and forth between their early attraction to each other, their movement toward a relationship, their engagement, their correspondences because the war separated them, and, finally, the preparation which precedes the title of the show, Mary’s Wedding. It is a credit to these two young actors that you always know exactly where and when they are in their relationship. Their work truly is a tour de force.
But even the best actors need the help of strong direction. And they get plenty from Mary Beth Frank, who is making her all for One debut.
The staging on her simple set design and the use of objects found in a barn (where the couple fall in love) create the world of the play in a way that is quite extraordinary. The skill she exhibits as a director makes her work disappear and highlights the honesty and truthful relationship of the two characters. Frank is smart enough to know that a good director does not put themselves on the stage, but creates a circumstance for the actors to be successful. And she has done that in a spectacular way.
A director’s other job is to lead a team of designers to create an environment for the actors to work. They have also achieved a marvelous creative dynamic for this production by highlighting the action of the play, but again doing it without getting in the way of the actors. Whether it’s the sound design, the lighting, the sets and costumes, or even the microphones that allow an audience to hear every word; each contributor to the production is working at the top of their game. The only thing that interfered with the storytelling was the projections. While very well chosen and executed, their placement forced me to choose to either watch them or watch the actors. May I suggest if you see the show, watch the actors. Their work tells the story beautifully.
I would be remiss not giving a special shoutout to the original music that was created for this production by Jonathon Schlegal. Oftentimes when a score is created for live theater, it interferes with the dialogue or it’s not there as a supportive element, but to showcase itself. Nothing could be further from the truth with this score. The music, while lovely in its own right, is always there to support the actors.
I must confess it was exciting to see work that isn’t the same old, same old. This is a unique Canadian play that is told in a very interesting way. If you haven’t guessed by now, I really loved this production. And anybody who loves hearing stories that remind us what it is to be human — who love joining other souls in a dark room to laugh, think, and be moved — you should rush out and make sure you get a ticket to Mary‘s Wedding, which continues its run Feb. 25-27.