Bristol Valley Theatre's production of "Mary's Wedding" opened Night 2 of the Rochester Fringe Festival, and was also the first show to take place at the TheatreROCS stage at Xerox Auditorium. The early show -- it started at 5:30 p.m. -- drew about 30 people in an auditorium with maximum seating for 700. The lack of an audience might be attributed to headliner Bandaloop drawing thousands of people across the street in Manhattan Square Park, Thursday still being a week night, or because the show ran right through the dinner hour. Regardless, a smaller venue would have suited this performance better, and most likely bolstered the spirits of the actors.
At the beginning of the show, and at a few other moments throughout the performance, it seemed like the two actors -- David Kimple and Kate Rose Reynolds -- could have used some reassurance to help them get into character. Kimple's character, Charlie, is a 20something farm boy smitten by Reynolds' character, Mary, a spirited redhead recently moved from Britain to the "wilds of the Canadas" with her family. The two make fast friends (and more) one day when Mary helps Charlie through his fear of thunderstorms by reciting the lines from Tennyson's "The Charge of the Light Brigade" with him. The audience witnesses their parallel and interweaving lives through Mary's dreams on the eve of her wedding. The couple struggles to remain together through war times and their differences in class, but always remain true.
A large portion of the plot centered around Charlie's devotion to his horse, represented alternately by wooden crates and a ladder at different times throughout the show. At first, Kimple seemed a bit awkward with the crates, but by play's end, I was convinced that the strips of wood nailed together were indeed Charlie's beloved horse. Additionally, there were several moments in which Kimple fumbled over lines. Minor flubs aside, the chemistry between the two actors was present, and energy emanated from the stage at all times.
While I enjoyed the performance, and believe the young actors gave an earnest effort, I could not help but think of another show: "War Horse." The focus on struggles in war, a love between a boy and his horse, and the use of verse as a unifying thread throughout kept directing my thoughts to the hit play based on Michael Morpurgo's novel. But perhaps I've said too much. Go into "Mary's Wedding" with no expectations and an open mind, and an entertaining evening is sure to follow. (NOTE: "Mary's Wedding" will also be performed Saturday, September 22, 2:30-4 p.m. at Xerox Auditorium. Tickets cost $15.)
On Friday night I'll be checking out A Cappella Hour at RAPA's East End Theater. What will you be seeing?