Oil Lamp Theater’s poignant ‘Mary’s Wedding’ depicts wonder of love, horror of war

“Mary’s Wedding” — 3 stars

The audible sniffles that accompanied the final scenes of “Mary’s Wedding” and the teary eyes revealed by the house lights at the conclusion of a recent Oil Lamp Theater matinee attest to the impact of this emotionally charged two-hander about first love and heartbreak.

The 2002 tear-jerker by Canadian writer Stephen Massicotte earns emotion honestly under the gentle, nicely paced direction of Lauren Katz, who keeps this tenderhearted, time-shifting tale from becoming mawkish.

Incorporating flashbacks and flashforwards, the nonlinear “Mary’s Wedding” chronicles the romance between unlikely lovers Mary (Ksa Curry), an upper-crust young English woman who recently emigrated to rural Canada with her parents, and Charlie (Rio Ragazzone), a farmer’s son and accomplished horseman. The play unfolds as Mary’s dream on the eve of her 1920 wedding, but the story begins years earlier in 1914, on the eve of World War I, or “the war to end all wars.”

Romance blossoms between Mary (Ksa Curry), left, and Charlie (Rio Ragazzone) after they meet while sheltering from a storm in Oil Lamp Theater's revival of “Mary's Wedding” by Stephen Massicotte. Courtesy of Gosia Photography

Their first meeting takes place in a barn, where each has sought shelter from a rainstorm (brilliantly conjured by sound designer Forrest Gregor). Unnerved by the thunder, Charlie is comforted by Curry’s plucky, compassionate Mary, who encourages him to recite a poem to take his mind off the din. In a blatant bit of foreshadowing, he recites — with Mary’s help — Alfred Lord Tennyson’s “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (“Theirs not to reason why/ Theirs but to do and die. Into the Valley of Death/ Rode the six hundred”).

The storm ends, Charlie escorts Mary home on horseback and romance blossoms despite the opposition of Mary’s class-conscious mother, who prefers her daughter’s suitor be a gentleman, not a farm boy.

War’s drumbeat intensifies and, over Mary’s objections, Charlie enlists in the Canadian calvary and is sent to Europe under the command of Sgt. Flowers (also played by Curry). Inspired by Canada’s real-life World War I hero Lt. Gordon Muriel Flowerdew, Flowers acts as Charlie’s confidant and protector.

Rio Ragazzone, left, plays Charlie, a soldier in Canada's cavalry during World War I, and Ksa Curry plays his commanding officer Sgt. Flowers in “Mary's Wedding,” running through July 14 at Oil Lamp Theater. Courtesy of Gosia Photography

Massicotte juxtaposes bucolic moments from the couple’s tentative courtship with battlefield horrors — vividly, wrenchingly evoked by sound designer Gregor and designer Daniel Friedman, whose moody lighting intensifies the chaos. (The production design, including Isa Noe’s weathered set, is impressive).

A more streamlined, less self-conscious construction would have made the storytelling less confounding initially, but Curry and Ragazzone’s minimal costume changes (donning a hat or jacket) help orient us to the shifts in time and location.

There were some tentative moments from Curry and Ragazzone during the matinee I saw opening weekend, but their performances were solid for the most part and will no doubt become more confident over the course of the run.

Curry’s winsome Mary has the plucky self-confidence that her upper-middle class lifestyle affords and an independent streak that allows her to see beyond social status. Ragazzone appears a bit older than Charlie, who’s described as a boy. But he ably conveys the sweet diffidence of the character, a selfless patriot whose devotion to his country is exceeded only by his affection for his horse and his love for Mary.

Exceptional sound and lighting design by Forrest Gregor and Daniel Friedman, respectively, depict in wrenching detail the horrors of war in Oil Lamp Theater's production of the World War I-set “Mary's Wedding.” Courtesy of Gosia Photography

“Everyone must do their share,” Charlie says responding to Mary’s pleas that he not enlist in the Canadian cavalry. Sgt. Flowers receives the same answer after he cautions Charlie against taking on dangerous missions. “Everyone must do their share,” he insists.

Charlie does much more, as Massicotte’s bittersweet ending — which the playwright telegraphs early on — confirms. That said, this quietly moving examination of love and loss concludes with an affirmation of acceptance and the promise that love never dies.

• • •

Location: Oil Lamp Theater, 1723 Glenview Road, Glenview, (847) 834-0738,

Showtimes: 7:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday; 3 and 7:30 p.m. Saturday; 3 p.m. Sunday through July 14

Running time: About 90 minutes, no intermission

Tickets: $34, $48

Parking: On the street

Rating: For teens and older; references wartime combat

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