What does a kitchen renovation have to do with a trip to Mars? Coffee makers and cabinets? Debt? Unemployment? And, last but not least, marriage? What do all these elements have in common? They are all catalysts for brilliant comedy in playwright Rick Chafe’s ingenious play, Marriage: A Demolition in Two Acts, performing now at The Prairie Theatre Exchange.
The play is a generational mash-up between a Millennial couple, John, performed by Justin Otto, and Maggie, performed Erin McGrath, just starting to learn the ropes of what it means to be in a committed relationship and baby-boomer spouses Wayne, performed by Tom Anniko, and Julie, performed by Marina Stephenson Kerr.
The younger couple thinks they have it all figured out, between the technology of cell phones and romance conducted through texts, to trying to work things out through an imaginary couples therapy box in which they divulge the truth of their feelings. As is stated in the play, their relationship is not perfect, but they work to improve their connections and to satisfy each other’s needs. Maggie and John are young and cannot conceive of a marriage’s duration over time though. Forever, they say. Can love really last forever?
Enter Julie and Wayne. Julie is full of unrequited passion for romance and excitement which has diminished in the thirty years of her marriage to Wayne. Unemployed Wayne has succumbed to a life on the sidelines; his responsibilities largely relegated to laundry and managing the finances, both of which he is failing. Julie has compromised many dreams over the years, but her last hope of fulfilling some of her fantasies is for John and Maggie to design and build her her dream kitchen. The kitchen represents her hopes. It represents one sacrifice she refuses to concede.
As the play progresses, the kitchen becomes demolished, as it appears the precarious relationships do as well. The physical destruction of the kitchen might echo the demise of the the perilous state of the couples, but, instead, as the walls crumble, so do the walls separating the two pairs. The walls dividing the couples dissolve, and they begin to talk. And talk. The couples share their dreams and their beliefs in the insanity of some of their dreams and work through what really connects them and reality. Smoke and mirrors are replaced by truth.
Of course, this transformation does not occur without a few lively and hilarious battles, first occurring within the couples and later between them, all in the midst of a very real environment created with Winnipeg local flavor.
The play is about couples fighting, compromises, negotiations, dreams, connections, and generational gaps that reveal we all have something to learn from each other. It is about a love that might, in fact, last forever and how to make it there. The play is a comedy, but maybe we shouldn’t take our own lives so seriously either. There are different interpretations we can forge on our own lives, and maybe, just maybe, we are not so divorced from these characters. Maybe, if we look at it with the right lens, we can view the parts of our lives that pain us and see them in a comedic light in the same vein as we guffaw at the pain and detachment in Maggie, John, Julie, and Wayne’s predicaments.
At the crux of this laugh-out-loud play is a humorous juxtaposition between a young couple on the cusp of marriage and an older couple who has survived a thirty-year marriage. And a kitchen that gets demolished as the sacrifice for what is built in its stead.
Is life perfect? No, but I well recommend a night at the Prairie Theatre Exchange to lose yourself in a wonderfully performed and written comedy. And maybe when you come home, you realize that there is comedy everywhere, if you know where to look.