SALT-WATER MOON by David French has opened the English Theatre season at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa. It’s one of playwright French’s semi-autobiographical plays about the fictional Mercer family of Newfoundland. Set on a moonlit night in 1926, young Jacob Mercer has returned from Toronto to woo his former sweetheart, Mary Snow. However, during the year since Jacob abruptly left, Mary has become engaged to a wealthy and upright school teacher, a staid contrast with the roguish Jacob.
This may sound simple, but the play is about much more than the love story at its core. It’s about choices, the weight of family history, the pressure of cultural heritage, and the determination of both these young people to make better lives for themselves.
Designer Max-Otto Fauteux has created a long gravel path leading to the uncovered porch of the house where Mary works. Upstage there is a backdrop of scrim concealing various arrangements of masts in the harbor. This clean simplicity provides a perfect canvas for Jock Munro’s magical lighting. Clouds, stars and the moon appear and fade revealing changing silhouettes of masts. The gravel walk becomes a pathway of light. Never obtrusive, the slow and subtle changes enhance the action, as does Marc Desormaux’s delicate music and sound.
The two young actors do a nice job of interpreting the complex characters. Holly Gauthier-Frankel gives us a sturdy Mary, with flashes of fierce temper. She displays the grounding that Jacob may not even realize he needs. Jamie Mac’s Jacob is very entertaining both physically and emotionally. He’s determined to woo Mary in every possible way, including his very funny display of a tempting gift. The two have a nice chemistry together.
Well-staged and directed by Micheline Chevrier, her production of SALT-WATER MOON is lovely to look at as well. This is a promising opener for the new season.
On a scale of one to five the NAC production of SALT-WATER MOON gets four and one-fourths Royal Canadian Mounted Police. For North Country Public Radio I’m Connie Meng.