Ottawa Ctizen, October 24, 2011
Jacob Mercer and Mary Snow, when first we meet them in the NAC English Theatre’s fulfilling production of David French’s romantic comedy Salt-Water Moon, look small, almost lost on what seems an enormous set.
Not only do they look small, they sound that way too, their voices audible but initially distant, as though battling the vastness of the sea that laps at the shores of Coley’s Point, the Newfoundland outport where they’ve been raised and where the play takes place.
But they should seem small, for they are that way to each other. Former sweethearts who once loomed so large in each other’s lives, the two young people haven’t seen each other since Jacob left, without warning, for Toronto a year earlier. They have become distanced from each other, like looking through the wrong end of the telescope that sits on the porch of the home where Mary, a domestic, works and that, together with the endlessly long gravel path leading to the porch, constitutes the play’s set (Max-Otto Fauteux).
And maybe they’re diminished too by the weight of what they carry. For French’s two-person play, the most popular of his series about the Mercer family, isn’t just about Jacob’s determination to win back Mary from her fiancé, who, we hear, is a wealthy, yawn-inducing schoolteacher. And it isn’t just about Mary’s equal determination to shun the advances of the charming, slightly roguish Jacob who hurt her so deeply by leaving.
Set on a starry summer night in 1926, Salt-Water Moon is also about the burdens of inherited shame shouldered by Jacob (a loose-limbed and very funny Jamie Mac, himself a Newfie) and Mary (a compact and fiery Holly Gauthier-Frankel). It’s a shame that’s rooted in the humiliations their families or they have faced in surviving the brutally tough life that a place like Newfoundland can hand you.
No wonder Mary is so determined to have a home of her own where she can’t be ordered about, even if it means sacrificing the love she still feels for Jacob for the security of her schoolteacher.
The two carry in themselves as well the weight of their community, a place they both cherish and abjure but from which in any case there’s really no escape. We see no one but Jacob and Mary, and yet we see everyone as the two reference the people and places and events that have helped make them who they are.
Jacob and Mary are also proud of their heritage – the bravery of Newfoundlanders in the first world war, for example, and the men who work long and hard on fishing boats – no matter how that heritage has also damaged them.
They’re proud too of their own determination to make better lives for themselves than what their forebears had. “It’s the future that counts, Mary,” says Jacob, “and the future is here, in this yard.”
Directed by Micheline Chevrier, the two actors engage us completely as they unpack their characters and the love story that’s at the heart of the play and this production. As the moon bathes Coley’s Point in a kindly, clear light (Jock Munro’s lighting design is spectacular), Jacob and Mary seem to grow, owning more and more of the space that initially seemed to dwarf them…… read the rest………….
Salt Water Moon a production of the NAC English Theatre continues until Nov 5
Salt Water Moon
by David French
A production of the English Theatre of the National Arts Centre
Directed by Micheline Chevrier
Lighting by Jock Munroe
Set designed by Max-Otto Fauteux
and Jamie Mac
‘Reviewed by Patrick Langston