Theater Spotlight: Mary's Wedding

Sam Bardwell and Alayne Hopkins in Jungle Theater's <i>Mary's Wedding</i>

Sam Bardwell and Alayne Hopkins in Jungle Theater's Mary's Wedding

It's about halfway into Mary's Wedding when it appears obvious where things are going, and the question then is whether playwright Stephen Massicotte and director Joel Sass are going to deliver a powerful emotional experience, or whether matters are going to descend into ankle-deep sentiment. All the action takes place within the dream of a young woman named Mary (Alayne Hopkins) during the night before her wedding in 1920. She dreams of memories of young love, primarily, which she found with Charlie (Sam Bardwell), a rough-hewn farmer boy she met during a thunderstorm (in an affecting scene, Mary calms the lightning-phobic young man). From there memories weave through an uncertain courtship, the missteps of ardor (of a convincingly powerful variety) in an age of considerably greater innocence than ours. When Mary's unseen mother scolds her for touching Charlie's hair at a community tea, Mary goes wide-eyed at the ramifications, then later pulls her cool together with the recognition that she doesn't really care what Mom thinks. All is well until Charlie enlists for combat in World War I (they are Canadian, and Charlie signs up for duty in the European trenches). Mary, deathly afraid for him, spurns him, and Charlie wanders off to his fate. A series of letters from the battlefield pulls them closer, though, and Hopkins does double-duty as the officer's battle-hardened superior (Hopkins, a slender young woman in a nightdress, nonetheless convinces as Charlie's heart-of-gold tough guy). Wending through history with the open floodgates of two hearts, Hopkins and Bardwell's performances are sufficiently idiosyncratic, and passionate, to make us believe in them. What, then, of our increasing certainty that the man Mary will wed the next day, in the real world, will not be the love for whom she has been pouring out her spirit and soul? The crucial matter is whether we can bear the weight of all of this with something that resembles how the real world shatters, then allows to partially mend, hearts that beat with an intensity that life can't sustain. We get there, amply, with enough power and subtlety to make one gasp, our own hearts for the moment as open as either of these two star-crossed lovers'. $28-$36. 7:30 p.m. Tue.-Thu., 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat., 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sun. Jungle Theater, 2951 Lyndale Ave. S., Minneapolis; 612.822.7063. Through October 25