By John Quinn
A major part of an actor’s craft is discovering and understanding his or her character. When the characters and actors are both married couples, a lot of the discovery is already done. Director Kathy Vertin needed actors for her production of “I Do! I Do!” To whom should she turn other than the Smiths: Aaron Dennis and Brittany Everitt, two of the talented regulars at The Snug Theatre in Marine City?
“I Do! I Do!” hit Broadway in 1966, earning Tony Award nominations for its creators, Harvey Schmidt and Tom Jones. You might be more familiar with another Schmidt-Jones collaboration, a little musical named “The Fantasticks.” “Little” is the key to these productions’ success. Both shows feature small casts, endearing stories, unpretentious lyrics and memorable scores. Each has a number that endures in the common culture; “Try to Remember” from “The Fantasticks” and “My Cup Runneth Over” from “I Do, I Do!” In sum, the musicals enjoy frequent revival because their emotional context is timeless.
“I Do! I Do!” spans 50 years in the marriage of Agnes and Michael Snow, from their wedding day to the day the elderly couple moves out of the family homestead. The touchstones of relationship are all here: The Wedding Night, Birth #1, Birth #2; “Familiarity Breeds Contempt,” The Affair, Reconciliation, Our Teens are Out of Control, The Kids Get Married and Empty Nest Syndrome. The book is a trifle, bordering on stereotype; the story is told by the music. This is where simplicity pays off in spades; we have two fine, well matched voices, accompanied only by Steven Summers on piano. There is a sense that the second act progresses more slowly than the first, exacerbated by the necessarily longer pauses for costume and makeup changes.
To help the audience better identify with the musical, Vertin has moved the time of “I Do! I Do!” from the first half of the 20th century to the second half. Indeed, the audience got a kick out of macrame wall hangings and tasteless tuxes. But in more practical terms, no costumer could have assembled such an array of attractive, period clothing in the original setting as are on display here – not on a sensible budget, at least.
Like the costumes, Tom Vertin’s ambitious scenic design reflects the passing decades. This is a one-set play – the Snow’s master bedroom. Slipcovers come and go; lamps and pictures are updated. The constant is the bed center stage – and therein lays a tale.
The bed in question is an unadorned, walnut framed, mid-century double bed. But “I Do! IDo!” is a musical adaptation of Jan de Hartog’s 1951, play “The Fourposter.” What the playwright may have envisioned was a huge, Belle Epoch monster, which sits unchanged in 50 years because it’s simply too big to move. As time passes it gets a little worn, a little scarred. Fashions change, and the bed may look old-fashioned, even ugly. But the bed is well built. The bed is solid, practical. The bed endures.
Kind of like a good marriage, wouldn’t you say?
‘I Do! I Do!’
The Snug Theatre, 160 Water Street, Marine City. 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday through Feb. 22, plus 3 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 16. 2 hours, 20 minutes. 810-278-1749 http://thesnugtheatre.com