One Good Marriage

by Sean Reycraft
ISBN: 0920486576

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A Review of: One Good Marriage
by Lia Marie Talia

Sean Reycraft is a Canadian playwright who examines the contours of contemporary marriage. One Good Marriage begins with tragedy and explores the fallout that this brings to a marriage, wrenching a couple out of the comfort of a stable union into a state of confusion and uncertainty. Through meeting these challenges, the writer suggests, a couple can create a stronger bond that defies conventional expectations.
One Good Marriage is narrated by two characters, Stewart, a high-school librarian, and his wife, Steph, a high school English teacher. This play also withholds a secret from its audience, with the actors slowly revealing the incident that forever changed Stewart and Steph's marriage. The play begins with their first anniversary, yet the celebratory tone is undermined from the start by a rumpled banner with only "versary" visible, and the obvious vigilance with which the couple survey their surroundings. Steph's first words, "Everybody died," irritate Stewart, who tries to reassure the audience that things will turn out all right. As the characters take turns telling the story, we begin to realize that they are attempting to come to terms with an incident that still torments them. At the end of the play, the audience becomes part of this dramatic event, when they are literally left in the dark, commanded to close their eyes as the actors disappear into a blackout that leaves the audience prone to the same fears that haunt the protagonists. The darkness underscores not only the play's tragic revelation, but also the limitations of our understanding and the necessity of maintaining faith in the face of heartbreaking circumstances. For Stewart and Steph do survive the sorrow that befell them, and by listening, the audience has helped them to do so.
By exploring intimacy through both staging and theme, this play reveals the obstacles to communication and the delicate process of maintaining individual identity in relation to a shared identity within a marriage. To use feminist theorist Judith Butler's vocabulary, the performative aspect of a pair's relationship, the way two individuals act-out their identity as a couple, demonstrates the effort that building and maintaining a marriage, or any close relationship, requires. It also highlights for the audience the difficulty of this arrangement and the fact that it requires of two individuals to go beyond received notions of marriage to create a more sustaining union. Ultimately, the play asserts that to be troubled' can lead to a more profound understanding of one's spouse and a greater appreciation for the less conventional aspects of intimacy and love.

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