In 1917 or thereabouts, blithe young Mary and sturdy young horseman Charlie are introduced by a thunderstorm that rolls across the prairies of Western Canada. Aggression has already roiled Europe into conflagration. Mutual fascination gathers.
As they shelter from the storm she teaches him to brave out his fear of thunder with martial rhythms from a poem glorifying battlefield valor. He will put her teaching to good use once he enlists, heeding the call of King and country, and is pinned down in the muddy, bloody trenches of World War I.
Then, on a quiet July night in 1920, on the eve of her wedding, Mary dreams it all again. Her dream is the whole 90-minute business of Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte's lyrical, two-actor, three-character play, Mary's Wedding.
It's on view now in a near-lyrical regional premiere at Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati (ETC) featuring evocative performances by Morgan Grahame (remembered happily from ETC's less-than-happy More Fun Than Bowling) and Ryan Wesley Gilreath (new to ETC but familiar from New Edgecliff Theatre's Fat Pig).
As dreams do, Massicotte's script collages things prosaic with things fantastical, things recalled with things imagined — heightened, skewed memories, Charlie's letters, news from the war. The evening's neatest treat is watching these able performers nimbly negotiate instant changes from then to now, from here to there and, in Grahame's case, from feminine to masculine and back again, from the familiar character of Mary to the imagined one of Charlie's battlefield commander — all without the help of props or costume changes.
As clearly directed by D. Lynn Meyers, the dreamscape Mary and Charlie create is bravura work from very able people.
Reba Senske's costumes are fine: boots and cowboy work clothes for him; an embroidered, white-on-virginal-white nightgown for her. But resident designer Brian c. Mehring has crowded Mary's dream into a looming sculpture of barn wood that confines physically and constricts mentally.
MARY'S WEDDING continues at ETC through Feb. 24. Buy tickets, check out performance times and find nearby bars and restaurants here.