Wedded Unbliss

In 65 anxious, nail-biting minutes, playwright Sean Reycraft delivers a blow that bruises beneath the skin

by Jolene Munch
Published on October 28, 2004, 12:00am | Comments

Have you ever returned home after being out of town for a while -- days, maybe weeks -- and felt as though the whole world had changed? You'd missed out on something, but of course you don't know what just yet. And everyone is different somehow, but you reason that perhaps it's all in your imagination.

For Steph and Stewart, a pair of happily married honeymooners, it's reality.

The Ontario couple celebrates their first wedding anniversary by regaling us with the tragic events that occurred after the commencement of their marriage. Like most newlyweds, the two left their wedding reception bound for a life lived happily ever after. But when they returned home a few weeks later, their lives were instead marred by tragedy and unimaginable horror.

Canadian Sean Reycraft mingles the elation of marital bliss with the empty pain of death in One Good Marriage, a dark and sometimes dreary exploration of how couples cope with loss. His couple -- a pair of innocuous educators who meet, date, and marry -- must deal with this loss on a grand scale. Reycraft is a master of tease, and his promising pay-off following 65 anxious, nail-biting minutes delivers a blow that bruises beneath the skin.

While the first wedding anniversary is typically a joyful occasion, a time of celebration and reflection on the first twelve months of matrimony and domestic achievement, Stephanie (Toni Rae Brotons) and Stewart (Marcus Kyd) spend it pouring over the tiniest nuances of their relationship: when, where, and how they met, how he proposed, how they planned to wed, the endless honeymoon fiasco, and finally, the indescribable trauma they both experienced after returning home. "Everyone died. Everyone's dead. Thanks for coming, " Stephanie warns us from the beginning. But we want to know more, we need to know how.

From the barrage of flowers and cards greeting them from their front porch to the inevitable yard sales from homes no longer inhabited, Steph and Stewart slowly reveal the abysmal depths of their horrific ordeal, which Reycraft has subtitled as "A Simple Tale of Glorious Grief. " A clever drama that mixes the poignancy of Craig Wright's Recent Tragic Events with the mass morbidity of Stephen King's Carrie, Reycraft has composed a morose valentine on how one couple survives a freak catastrophe together.

Director John Vreeke doesn't mind extending the script's ocean liner pace. Not only does it take more than a little while to warm up to Reycraft's bizarre storyline, but Vreeke conducts the whole affair with lingering suspense.

One Good Marriage
By Sean Reycraft
To 11/21
1201 North Royal St.
Alexandria, Va.

As two newlyweds who cut each other off to finish their sentences, Brotons and Kyd treat the material as one long acting exercise, divorced from the emotions that frequently bubble up to the surface. Essentially, the actors fail to tap into the more subliminal, idiosyncratic gems hidden in the writing.

Of the pair, Kyd is more convincing as the librarian whose method of handling the pain is to recall simple items, the memory of any random household object such as a plain white towel hanging to dry, a Christmas tree stand, or an unmarked coffee cup. As Stephanie, Brotons often takes liberties with her character, switching gears and personalities at will, an erratic switch that lacks purpose.

Despite a mild production that never really dips into cathartic territory, One Good Marriage is an unusually provocative tale with just enough edge to render it hazardous.