Playwright: Stephen Massicotte. At: Rivendell Theatre Ensemble at the Raven Complex, 6157 N. Clark. Phone: 773-334-7728; $22. Runs through: Feb. 20
From the moment at the very beginning of the play when we are told that what we are about to see is a bride's dream on the eve of her nuptials, we think we know how it will end. But playgoers who focus on the search for clues to their preconceived resolution, instead of just permitting the author to lead them on the course he wants them to follow, will miss a lot of the finely-honed craft invested in this delicate lyric of roads untraveled.
We are also told, early on, that the year is 1920 and the "great war" over, and that we are in a small village in Alberta, where a local farm boy and a newly arrived English girl pay shy court to one another. Then comes the call to enlist, sparking young Charlie to join a cavalry unit in the mother country's fight against Germany. Did Mary's sweetheart return, or did he become one of the 60,000 Canadians who perished in that terrible attrition? Is he the man who will, on the morrow, be the groom at Mary's wedding?
Playwright Stephen Massicotte doesn't make it easy for us to guess the answer. Since this is a dream, the narrative is presented mosaically, episodes flashing back and forth between continents over an unspecified period spanning the final years of the deadly conflictCharlie's hardships might be suffered at a picnic vexed by bad weather, or in a trench under artillery fire. ( He makes several entrances, heralded by his beloved's cry of, "You're back!", but we must wait for the dialogue to tell us from where, and when, he has returned. ) Mary's role in this fantasy-chronicle is no less nebulous: after a scene, she may remind herself that the events therein didn't actually occur. At times, she even changes into Charlie's platoon sergeantno easy task when dressed only in slippers and a nightie.
So is this hankie-wringing historical docudrama or teeth-aching romantic fiction? At a running time of 90 minutes ( with an intermission ) , why should we be in a hurry to resolve that question? In the intimate Raven west stage under Mark Ulrich's direction for this Rivendell Theatre Ensemble production, Massicotte's eloquent ode to lovers put asunder, as portrayed by Cassandra Bissell and Shane Kenyon, are themselves enough to engage us until playgoers exercising patience are rewarded with a sweetly satisfying denouement.