march 2019 | Volume 177
Marisa Emma Smith as Maranatha. Photo by Wendy D.
In Rosemary Rowe’s solo show The Good Bride we spend an hour and a half with a 15-year-old girl waiting 40 days and nights for her bridegroom to arrive.
In her wedding dress in a bedroom in the home of Mr. and Mrs. Pullman—parishioners of her pastor father—Maranatha waits for 29-year-old Pete. He takes bible classes with her Daddy, who has arranged the marriage and instructed Maranatha to wait there until God tells him that the time is right for her wedding.
So she waits and prays and talks to her absent mother.
Maranatha has grown up in a radically Christian environment and is deeply indoctrinated in its patriarchal belief system. Her entire frame of reference is God, Jesus, Daddy and Pete. She prides herself in being “a Proverbs 31 woman,” abiding by the bible’s guidelines for a virtuous wife. She looks forward to “submitting joyfully” to Pete as she has to her father: “I just want to submit to his Godly leadership.”
She begins many of the play’s short blackout scenes reciting Matthew 25:13: “Watch therefore, for ye know not neither the day nor the hour when the Son of man cometh.” The problem is, day after day, hour after hour, Pete cometh not. She keeps telling herself that the waiting is “a spiritual test.”
But after weeks of it, she starts to feel like a princess imprisoned in a castle. And when her prince fails to come for her, the doubts inevitably begin to creep in.
Except for her religious fanaticism, Maranatha is a pretty normal, happy, ingenuous teenager, your basic horny 15-year-old. She can joke about her “fleshly longings” in the context of her soon-to-be married life, though it bugs her that no one will tell her what sex actually is. But hearing Mr. and Mrs. Pullman doing it—loudly—night after night gets her hot.
A letter from her mother, who left her father and the kids five years earlier for reasons we can easily guess, becomes the final catalyst for Maranatha’s incipient rebellion. Will she allow herself to be tempted, corrupted by her mother’s “feminist thinking,” or will she stay vigilant and submissive to Jesus and Daddy and hold out for Pete?
Marisa Emma Smith, playing quite a bit younger than she is, does a terrific job of conveying Maranatha’s stubborn optimism and faith along with her naivety and teenage frustrations. But I found it hard to spend so long in this claustrophobic world of monstrous religious fanaticism and misogyny.
As the play progresses, the scenes grow shorter and the blackouts more frequent and annoying, covered by CJ McGillivray’s deep, ominous music. They feel long, though when the lights come back up Smith is usually just revealed in another part of the room. Director Donna Spencer might cut some and shorten others.
The Good Bride shines a light on a corner of the world that I’m pretty sure is as alien to most of the people who will see it at the Firehall and at Coquitlam’s Evergreen Centre and Burnaby’s Shadbolt Centre, where it travels to next, as it is to me.
All I can say is I’m glad it’s not my daughter’s world.
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