Tag: Mark Ulrich
Even Rivendell can’t save this wedding from mediocrity
Rivendell Theatre presents:
review by Paige Listerud
What can be said about a simple and elegant production of a mediocre play? It is like trying to praise the beauty of an exquisitely hand-carved chair that, nevertheless, shows one leg significantly shorter than all the rest. A clunky, fundamental flaw overrides whatever other virtues one could acknowledge about graceful line or sleek finish. So it is with Rivendell’s production of Mary’s Wedding, a one-act dream play about two young Canadians striving to maintain their love affair during the First World War.
Stephen Massicotte received Canadian playwriting and literary awards for Mary’s Wedding, recognition that, no doubt, has won its career of productions throughout Canada, the US, and the UK. However, in spite of a sure-handed facility with dramatic structure that blends one character’s storyline with the other—no small talent, to be sure—the play is encumbered by basic shallowness.
First and foremost, the romance between Mary (Cassandra Bissell) and Charles (Shane Kenyon) is the most generic sort. She has recently arrived from England, upper-crustiness intact, and he is a common, horseback-riding, farm boy “colonist”—these stereotypes in the play are as entrenched as anything along the Western Front. What draws these two together remains one of its most underdeveloped features. Sadly, while Bissell and Kenyon’s interactions show freshness and innocence, there is not enough chemistry between them to make up for the text’s deficiencies. Be prepared for tepid barn scenes, “startling” horseback rides, boring tea parties, and a disapproving, upper-crusty mother.
The audience must slog through 30 minutes of that before finally getting on to the war. Once there, creaky exposition comes across more like cliff notes to Canada’s participation in the Great War than any young man’s authentic first person experience. Trenches, lice, poison gas—even “my first kill”—gets ticked off like a laundry list. Throw in Gordan Muriel Flowerdew and the Battle of Moreuil Wood and you’ve got something that will easily serve as a Canadian after-school-special.
These are terrible things to say in the face of a cast and crew striving for a balanced, lean, heartfelt, and poetic production. By that, I mean true poetry—not the faux poeticism of repetitions in the text that lose their power to resonate and can, in fact, become as irritating as nails on a blackboard. Mark Ulrich’s directorial choices are, for the most part, clean, spare, and agile, eliciting the play’s dreamlike structure. Shane Kenyon is adeptly profound at portraying Charles’ encroaching war-weariness, while Cassandra Bissell brings the play’s emotional impact home during its final moments. The trouble is in waiting for the play to get there, enduring all its speed bumps along the way.
As a theater company, Rivendell Theatre has moved far beyond works like these. It shows a cohesion and professionalism that has lifted it to a higher level of excellence for small theaters in this city. It can take pride in its achievements and elevate its vision of what it can accomplish in future productions. And it can leave less fulfilling works behind—perhaps even in the dustbin of history.
Scene from Mary’s Wedding on YouTube
Gay Chicago Magazine has just announced this year’s After Dark Awards. Below is an abbreviated list. For the complete list, as well as production photos, go to Venus Zarris’s website: Chicago State Review
Passion Play: A Cycle in Three Parts (Goodman Theatre)
The Mark of Zorro (Lifeline Theatre)
Hunchback (Redmoon Theatre)
Outstanding New Work
Devon de Mayo and Ensemble – As Told By The Vivian Girls (Dog & Pony Theatre)
Old Town (Strawdog Theatre)
David Cromer – Our Town (Hypocrites Theatre)
Anna Bahow – Sweet Confinement (SiNNERMAN Ensemble)
Peter Robel – Merchant of Venice (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Outstanding Direction of a Musical
Fred Anzevino – “Cabaret” and Jacque Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night (Theo Ubique Theatre)
Outstanding Musical Direction
Joshua Stephen Kartes – Jacque Brel’s Lonesome Losers of the Night (Theo Ubique Theatre)
Outstanding Performance in a Play
Jennifer Grace – Our Town (Hypocrites Theatre)
Mark Ulrich – Juno and the Paycock (Artistic Home)
Nicole Wiesner – Passion Play: A Cycle in Three Parts (Goodman Theatre)
Keland Scher – Much Ado About Nothing (First Folio Theatre)
Madeline Long – Soldiers: The Desert Stand (LiveWire Chicago Theatre)
Sadieh Rafai – Speech and Debate (American Theatre Company)
Jeremy Sher – Hunchback (Redmoon Theatre)
Annabel Armour – Fiction (Remy Bumppo)
Jenn Remke – Resort 76 (Infamous Commonwealth)
Andy Hager – Red Light Winter (Thunder and Lightning Ensemble)
Polly Noonan – Passion Play: A Cycle in Three Parts (Goodman Theatre)
Nick Vatterott – Love is Dead: A NecRomantic Musical Comedy (Annoyance Theatre)
Adam Kander – The Merchant of Venice (Bohemian Theatre Ensemble)
Outstanding Performance in a Musical or Review
E. Faye Butler – Ain’t Misbehavin’ (Goodman Theatre)
Kat McDonnell – Old Town (Strawdog Theatre)
Summer Smart – Sweet Charity (Drury Lane Oakbrook)
Bethany Thomas – Nine (Porchlight Music Theatre)
Emma (Trapdoor Theatre)
As Told by the Vivian Girls (Dog & Pony Theatre)
Juno and the Paycock (The Artistic Home)
Sweet Confinement (SiNNERMAN Ensemble)
Superior Donuts (Steppenwolf Theatre)
For the complete listing of all 2008 After Dark Awards, including full descriptions and great pictures, go to my friend Venus Zarris’s theatre blog: www.chicagostagereview.com. Go Venus!!