Saturday, June 17, 2023


By Ruth Ross

In the 27 years I have been reviewing theater, I can recall being gobsmacked (astounded, astonished—or, as I call it, “being hit by a truck”) only three times: by Robeson in Space at Luna Stage, Venus in Fur at George Street Playhouse and, on Sunday afternoon, Mary’s Wedding at the Chatham Community Players. I have seen and reviewed fine productions, but these three affected me more profoundly than most.

Mary’s Wedding, by Stephen Masicotte, is the last of the Chatham Players’ One Weekend Only series for the 2022-2023 season, so you will not be able to see a performance. Nevertheless, given the troupe’s polished performances and direction, let this be a reminder to go see One Weekend Only productions next year!

Set in Canada and told as a dream Mary has the night before her wedding in July 1920, the plot wanders back and forth through the past as it recounts a tale of young love, hot, heavy and breathtaking. Two strangers—Charlie, a farm boy, and Mary, a London transplant—meet in a deserted barn, ride a horse at breakneck speed to live “happily ever after.” Unfortunately, World War I intervenes, and Charlie heeds his King’s request for men and horses, leaving Mary to exist on his frequent missives from the front and fond memories of their affection for each other. In its wake, the call to war leaves shattered future dreams of wedded bliss and spending stormy nights together, safe and content in their love.

The intimate black box theater that is the Chatham Playhouse is perfect for this intimate, poetic love story. Director Ed Faver’s light but steady hand is evident in the poignant and truly convincing performances he elicits from his two actors: Mary Elizabeth Colagrande as Elizabeth Flowers and Michael Gencarelli as Charlie. Colagrande displays Mary’s vulnerability complemented by a courage that exists beneath the surface while Gencarelli’s Charlie puts on a brave demeanor that masks his inner vulnerability. Too, Colagrande may be a Jersey girl, but her British accent is impeccable and totally believable! The two are particularly adorable in the opening scenes where their chance encounter in a rainstorm leads to their opening themselves up to each other as we watch love in bloom. Gencarelli also conveys the terror that is trench warfare, wanting to do his patriotic duty but scared out of his wits by the noise and carnage all around him. He strikes up a lovely friendship with his commanding officer, played with amiable officiousness by Colagrande!

Joe DeVico’s sound design provides the noises of the blasting guns of France that echoes a thunderstorm that brings the two lovers together.

Ed Whitman’s lighting is atmospheric and disconcerting as the thunder and the guns boom. And Steve Ruskin’s spare yet evocative set, so close to the audience, never confuses us as to where the characters are. It is the perfect backdrop to this tale of young, burgeoning love.

One can often tell how good a play and performance are by the ambient noise in the audience. This time, one could have heard a pin drop, especially in the penultimate scene and the final few moments. I doubt there was a dry eye in the house; I know I had to reach for a tissue!

I hope to see more of Elizabeth Colagrande and Michael Gencarelli in the future. They are both very talented actors; their chemistry was palpable and their performances natural and convincing.

The season for One Weekend Only is over at the Chatham Community Players, but next year they’ve promised to continue this series. Mary’s Wedding was far too wonderful to have been restricted to three performances only, but if this is the kind of production Chatham Community Players is mounting, I plan to attend every one. So should you!

Mary’s Wedding was performed at the Chatham Playhouse, 23 North Passaic Avenue, in Chatham. There are several terrific restaurants on Main Street and plenty of parking spaces behind the theater. With such a wonderful theater so close to home, there’s little need to cross the Hudson, buy high-priced seats, and shell out a small fortune to park your car. This little community theater produces such polished, thoughtful shows because it has a troupe of actors, directors and production designers attached to the playhouse. There’s nothing amateurish about the plays they perform. It truly is a gem—discover for yourself as next season commences!