On a moonlit night in 1926, a young man returns from the city to claim his girl after a year of separation.
That would be a romantic beginning if Jacob had not run off to the mainland without a farewell and Mary had not settled for a secure future for herself and her younger sister by getting engaged to the relatively well-off but boring Jerome, the local schoolteacher.
Then there is the issue that Jerome is the son of the man who humiliated Jacob’s father and stealing the son’s fiancée would help to reset the balance against the father.
This shadow, and the matter of whose fathers did or did not fight or die in the Battle of the Somme in 1916 are just two of the undercurrents of this deceptively simple love story, the first — but third written (1984) — of Newfoundland playwright David French’s semi-autobiographical, five-part saga of the Mercer family.
Based on family stories about his parents’ rocky courtship, French tells how Jacob attempts to persuade Mary to break her engagement and marry him. (Considering the direction of their lives in Leaving Home (1972) and Of the Fields Lately (1973) one cannot help wondering about Mary’s alternate future…)
As directed by Micheline Chevrier and emphasized through Max-Otto Fauteux’s stark set design, the pair have to bridge a great distance to paper over past pain before there is any chance of a future together. Perhaps this is why Chevrier frequently favours having the two make pronouncements about the harshness of their lives from a distance rather than allowing them greater intimacy through their frequently angry discussions. The decision certainly gives added punch to the few times when they touch or are even close to each other.
As Jacob, Jamie Mac is upbeat and limber — in body and language, while, as his counterpoint, Holly Gauthier-Frankel, as Mary, is stiffer, focusing (appropriately) on anger and resistance to his determined efforts to charm her back.
Powerful, but not totally involving, this production of Salt-Water Moon continues to November 5, 2011, at the NAC, in conjunction with Writing Home, a retrospective exhibit of David French’s life and work
Ottawa, Iris Winston
25 Octobre, 2011