The Elmira Theatre Company is now in rehearsal for its first production of 2023, playwright David French’s Salt-Water Moon, which opens February 3.
Directed by Robin Bennett, Salt-Water Moon takes place on a single night in 1926 and follows Jacob Mercer (Quaid Lale) as he returns to Newfoundland after a year in Toronto in hopes of winning back his former sweetheart, Mary Snow (Emily Beattie).
“They were just teenagers and going out together and then Jacob left to go to Toronto for a year without saying anything to Mary and she’s not very happy with it. And in the meantime, she’s gotten engaged to another young man, Jerome Mackenzie. Jacob comes back from Toronto, basically to try and convince Mary not to marry Jerome but to marry him,” explained Bennett.
“She is not necessarily all that thrilled with the idea, so the play’s about what he does to convince her.”
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While it is a romance, Bennett describes the production as dramatic comedy.
“There’s a lot of humor in it. But there’s also a lot of family drama, especially because this is just eight years after the end of the First World War.”
Both Mary and Jacob’s fathers fought at the Battle of the Somme in France, where most of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment was wiped out.
“Mary lost her father. Jacob’s father survived, but was injured and suffers some PTSD from that. So it involves a lot of the history of Newfoundland, which was not part of Canada [at that time].”
He said of the story. “A lot of pride, sometimes foolish pride, and a lot of family dynamics.
“It’s a small fishing village where everybody knows everybody. So from that aspect, it’s really an interesting story. I think it’s going to be very popular here locally because we have such a large Newfoundland expat community, and hopefully a whole pile of those folks who come see the show,” Bennett added.
Originally released in 1984, Salt-Water Moon is the third of five productions by French about the Mercer family. Bennett has put his own spin on the award-winning production.
“This takes place basically on a moonlit night in the front yard of a cottage and normally with the cottage on the stage or the front of the cottage. I’m not doing any of that. It’s slightly unusual, it’s a three-degree raked (upward sloping) stage. “We’ll have just a few simple crops, a telescope and a rocking chair and one entrance. The rest is done by the two actors, and because it takes place at night, we do have some interesting lighting,” he said.
“What you see is focused on the play itself, on the acting and on the text. Not to say that it’s a static play, there’s lots of action and there’s lots of things, lots of movements in the play.”
While Lale and Beattie are young actors, they are quite experienced, Bennett added.
“They’ve both been to theatre school, so experienced actors, good actors. I think they’re doing a great job.”
While the play has a variety of elements to it, at its heart, it’s still a love story.
“It has a very heartwarming ending. The audience will be thrilled,” he said.
The ETC production of Salt-Water Moon runs February 3-18, Thursdays-Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. Tickets are $25, available from KW Tickets at 1-800-265-8977 or 519-578-1570 or online at www.elmiratheatre.com.