Neptune studio theatre’s production of David French’s classic love story Salt-Water Moon is a little gem of a play.
Running 85 minutes without intermission, it stars two up-and-coming young Atlantic Canadian actors Kelin Boyd and Nathan Simmons and evokes a coastal Newfoundland world full of moonlight, stars, rock and sea.
French’s story is poetic and magical – what love story isn’t ? – but also rooted in the harshness of Newfoundland life.
Set in Coley’s Point in 1926, the lovers Mary and Jacob are haunted by the history of the First World War, in particular the July 1, 1916, tragedy of the advance at Beaumont Hamel on the first day of the Battle of the Somme.
They are angry at social and economic injustice and with each other. Mary, 17, fell in love with Jacob the previous summer only to have him leave without an explanation or a goodbye. Now she’s engaged to a dull but stable school teacher.
On this moonlit summer night Jacob has returned from Toronto to woo her.
The beauty in Salt-Water Moon lies in the language and culture of Newfoundland with the push and pull of love and hate and a final joy in resolution.
Jacob is a born storyteller and Simmons does a grand job delivering the tales in vocal and physical acting. A Fountain School of Performing Arts graduate and film and TV actor, he is totally charming in this part. Mary may not love him but the audience sure does.
Boyd, who is from Newfoundland, has the accent down perfectly and creates a fierce, intelligent spitfire who loves the stars and believes in ghosts. Her emotional control is excellent.
The Newfoundland rapidity of speech makes it hard to hear every single word.
The staging is magical with excellent movement design by Halifax director Martha Irving on a front porch and giant slanted rock on wharf-like posts.
Katrin Whitehead’s lovely set for this intimate stage represents the sea in a rolling blue plastic with twinkle lights beneath a canopy of stars.
This artificial world, with Leigh Ann Vardy’s exquisite lighting, becomes so real that when Jacob skips an invisible stone people turn their heads to watch its journey.
Salt-Water Moon’s atmosphere is boosted by composition by Fiona Ryan and period costumes including Mary’s famous yellow dress by Helena Marriott.
Based on the courtship of French’s parents, it belongs to the late playwright’s famous quintet of plays about the Mercer family.
This production is a wonderful experience in transformative theatre and runs to Feb. 18.
On opening night Neptune Theatre’s new artistic director Jeremy Webb joked that Neptune had a plan to keep Irving off the streets. She is directing the next studio production of Half-Cracked: The Legend of Sugar Mary, by Halifax-based playwright Mary-Colin Chisholm, and a co-production with Eastern Front Theatre, March 13 to April 1.
(Photo Credit: Stoo Metz)