It would be easy to be mean about Mary's Wedding, a new play by Stephen Massicotte, at City Theatre. For one thing, you just don't see plays this thuddingly, if not jaw-droppingly, earnest anymore. And, too, there's some part of me amazed that somebody out there is still writing boy-meets-girl plays. Really? No, seriously, really?
But this indeed is what Massicotte has done in this tale set in Canada before the start of the Great War. British émigré Mary meets up with local stablehand Charlie, romance blooms before Charlie goes off to fight the godless Hun ... and you can take it from there.
But I found that, for almost the entire intermissionless 90 minutes, I didn't want to be mean because, though Massicotte's tone and story are conventional, the style he's employed to put it across ain't.
One of the greatest aspects of theater -- and one of its unique traits -- is its fluidity. A play can transcend time and space in a way that film cannot, and Mary's Wedding takes enormous advantage of that fact. It's not just that the storytelling jumps back and forth in time; it's that the characters inhabit those multiple spaces and multiple times at once, commenting on it. Massicotte moves through these shifts with the skill and assurance of a master.
Something else stifling my bitchiness is this thoroughly realized City Theatre production. On Tony Ferrieri's remarkable set, director Stuart Carden celebrates the theatricality of the play as much as Massicotte does. His work is every bit as fluid and intelligent, and there's not an emotional beat missed. And even I find it difficult to complain about a two-character play which has been cast so blissfully. Robin Abramson and Braden Moram are our star-crossed lovers, and there's not a second of this production in which either sounded a false note. With performances like these, you could almost believe this is a perfect play.
But it's not ... and here comes the bitch. The last 10 minutes are unforgivable. You know what's coming -- unless you're hooked up to a morphine drip, you can see what's coming from the third line of dialogue -- and when it finally arrives, Massicotte rolls around in it like a pig in mud. Honestly, if they had dangled a small child over a Cuisinart, it wouldn't have been as emotionally manipulative or dishonest.
But, of course, you could barely hear the actors for all of the sniffling going on around me ... and that, dear children, is why democracy will never work.
Mary's Wedding continues through April 5. City Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side. 412-431-2489 or www.CityTheatre.org.