PORTLAND — Anyone who has ever remembered a dream knows how surreal dreams can be. Time periods collide, and things that really happened become intertwined with things imagined and things that might have been.

Portland Stage re-creates this fantastic experience in a moving romantic drama, enacted from the meandering subconscious of Mary on the night before her wedding.

“Mary’s Wedding,” by Stephen Massicotte, is a love story revolving around the events of World War I.

Although the audience never actually sees Mary asleep, it is established from the opening of the play that what is portrayed is all a dream. And in dreamlike fashion, a story unfolds chronicling events from the day she met Charlie to the eve of her wedding.

The attraction is undeniable when Mary, an upper-crust Brit who recently relocated to the Canadian prairie, and Charlie, a working-class Canadian farm boy, meet by chance in an abandoned barn while escaping the torrential downpour of a thunder and lightning storm.

Charlie is afraid of the storm, and Mary calms him by helping him recite Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade.”

After Charlie gives Mary a ride home on horseback, the two cannot stop thinking of each other. Their attraction soon turns to love, despite her mother’s protests.

But when Charlie enlists in the army, Mary is left to experience the drama and horrors of his new life through letters he writes from the trenches of the war.

The play is set in Mary’s bedroom, solidifying that it is a dream. There is a four-poster bed, wooded chest, bureau and rocking chair.

Limited props, such as a military coat and hat, help accent a change in location, but most is born out of the imagination, reminiscent of children playing. With no real horses, the actors cleverly “ride” astride the end of the bed, and pillows double as bags of grain and sand.

The set by Artistic Director Anita Stewart is both simple and remarkable. Initially the wings beyond the set are black voids, and the flowered wallpaper walls of the bedroom are solid.

But with each lift of the backdrop curtain, the wings are filled with different scenery and the walls become translucent, like windows into another time and place.

Scenes of the barn, prairie and war trenches are enhanced by stunning sound and light effects by David Remedios and Bryon Winn, including rain, thunder, lightning and mortar fire.

At the heart of the production are Annie Purcell (Mary) and Todd Lawson (Charlie). The two deliver marathon performances that require Purcell to remain on stage throughout the two-hour performance and Lawson to be on stage almost as long.

Purcell doubles as Charlie’s sergeant, morphing between the two characters by shifting her stance, posture and the tone of her voice.

Being a dream, the timeline jumps around and blends together, folding time and space.

Lawson nicely portrays Charlie’s idealism before the war and his war-torn realism while fighting, allowing the audience to understand the time period, even when it changes suddenly.

“Mary’s Wedding” is a heartfelt drama that allows the audience to feel the joys, sorrows, excitement and fear that Mary and Charlie experienced.

Using the dream format, the play also subtly reminds the audience that there are an infinite number of possibilities for any situation. The outcome hinges on the choices we make. 

April Boyle is a freelance writer from Casco. She can be contacted at:

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