Every night, from mid-afternoon until midnight, Maranatha Graham (Arielle Rombough) perches beside her bedroom door. When we first meet her there, her body is so tensed it’s like she’s trying to swing it open through sheer force of will. But the door remains shut, and after a few charged-up moments, she settles back into the room around her.
Maranatha’s waiting for Pete, her husband to be, at the Pullman’s house. She’s been sent to wait for him there by her father; as soon as Pete arrives, she gets to start her new life as his wife and servant. She’s part of the Quiverfull Faith—she can quote the Duggar daughters’ book about relationships as easily as she can scripture—and is, at 15, adorned in her homemade wedding dress and swimming in questions about the part of her life that’s about to start—the sex part, largely. Pete, double her age, will teach her what to do, she’s told. This reassurance does nothing to help with her immediate questions and feelings and urges that she can’t seem to pray away, especially as she waits on what feels like the precipice of the rest of her life. But days tick by and the door remains shut. And the longer it stays like that, the more doubt starts to creep into the picture.
Rosemary Rowe’s The Good Bride is among the most sharp, funny scripts about faith you’re likely to find: as a critique of a belief system it’s skillful, aimed not at the believer but the power and gender dynamics it justifies, and of a teenager’s uncertainty in the face of adulthood’s mysteries. Rowe’s script packs its pages with zippy punchlines making use of Maranatha’s teenage exuberance and naiveté about sex and what, exactly that is—she has to look up “foreplay,” which, given the software on the Pullman’s computer, sends an email to the family patriarch at work. But the unspoken things, the questions Maranatha doesn’t ask about her situation, are just as effective at making a point.
It’s all deftly presented here as Northern Light Theatre’s season opener, efficiently directed by Trevor Schmidt, who keeps its myriad short scenes clipping along. There are some parallels you could draw to last season’s hit The Pink Unicorn—both one-woman shows exploring a character’s faith at pivotal testing points—but it stands as its own: the comedy’s a little sharper, a little more modern in its feel.
And while the script and handling are skillful, much of its resonance comes down to casting: Rombough plays Maranatha with a motormouthed teenage brio that’s both endearing and enduring, anchoring a script that’s effectively about waiting for something to happen in a performance that never runs out of steam. Eventually, Maranatha finds herself caught between not one door, but two—its comedy doesn’t disappear, but drama takes hold—and The Good Bride forces you to take its conclusion on, well, faith. But it’s a testament to its handling here that both the light and dark land so effectively, with Maranatha caught somewhere in the middle, trying to decide what to believe.
Until Sat, Oct 24 (7:30 pm; additional 11:30 pm performance on Fri, Oct 23)
Directed by Trevor Schmidt
ATB Financial Arts Barns,
$16 – $28