The best of this year’s “second stage” series at Burning Coal Theatre in Raleigh, NC has been Stephen Massicotte’s Mary’s Wedding, directed by Joshua Benjamin. Massicotte is either a Canadian claiming to live in New York or a New Yorker claiming to come from Canada, but he is at any rate well known in Alberta, where Mary’s Wedding premiered in 2002. If I say that it’s a sweet, sad, well-constructed yarn about a young farmboy who falls for a girl and goes off to die with the horse cavalry in WWI, you’ll think “Oh, I might better spend my time reading Rupert Brooke’s dispatches from the trenches or watching Stephen MacDonalds’ Not About Heroes.”
But no. Like you I immediately thought of the 2004 Playmakers’ production of the MacDonald piece, which put WWI poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen on stage to argue and tear your heart out. This one is different, a real narrative (not a meta-narrative) told with a fine ear for adolescent awkwardness. It’s told not quite chronologically backwards but at least out of order in a series of flashbacks and flashforwards, a technique I have tried and admired, yet in Massicotte’s hands the technique does not call attention to itself. Actors Caitlin Davis and Matthew Hager evinced just the right degree of self-consciousness, and though all war stories threaten to become maudlin, they held it in check till the script gave them no quarter in its closing moments.
Massicotte’s definitely an author worth watching. I don’t a need to rush out to see his other anti-war play but I sure would like to see his more recent The Clockmaker.