In the annals of human combat, World War I (or the Great War, as it was known at the time) must rank as one of history's foremost widow makers. Millions of young men were cut down in their flower as their quaint notions of 19th-century romantic warfare – the cavalry charge, for example – ran smack up against the horrors of 20th-century mass slaughter, in the form of the Gatling gun and poison gas. And though the actual carnage took place mostly on the fields of France and Belgium, the broad swath of human misery spanned continents.

Mary's Wedding, by Canadian playwright Stephen Massicotte, is a dream play about two young lovers, Mary and Charlie, whose budding romance is cut short by the tragedy of the Great War. As such, the play represents in part the many sad stories that must have been the result of Canada's 67,000 deaths on those faraway battlefields. The piece has been extremely popular up north and has won many awards since its 2000 premiere. It is currently being staged in Mad Cow Theatre's Stage Right space, where it has been directed by Denise Gillman and stars two of Orlando's most attractive and talented young actors, Michael Marinaccio and Heather Leonardi.

The play opens on the night before Mary's wedding in 1920, and the story alternates seamlessly between Charlie and Mary's first meeting and their growing romance in the relative quiet of western Canada, and the noisy and muddy horror of the front lines where the young horseman has gone to "do his share." As Mary recounts the tale, she also assumes the persona of Sgt. Flowers, Charlie's superior and confidant, whose wisdom guides the naive farm boy in his battle against both the German enemy and his own loneliness. Time and memory merge as Massicotte explores the delicate nature of the human heart when it first opens to love, and how difficult it is for the heart to learn to let go when that love is bested by the exigencies of war.

Both Marinaccio and Leonardi turn in soulful and sympathetic performances, although the production does have some shortcomings. At times, director Gillman's staging becomes very static when the script seems to call for movement, and the use of sound effects is strangely inconsistent. Also, while Marinaccio's Canadian accent is virtually nonexistent, Leonardi's voice is more reminiscent of Katherine Hepburn's patrician Connecticut-ese than British.

But these small cavils aside, the emotional impact of Mary's Wedding is powerful and, although sad, very satisfying. There is little new ground being plowed here, as the tales of lost love are as old as war itself. Still, one grieves for the lives not lived and the hearts that can never quite mend.

Mad Cow Theatre
Through July 3

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