Scene: Wife and husband of 17 years are driving home after watching the Everett opening night of Village Theatre’s current production. “I Do! I Do!” — a Tony award-nominated two-person play — follows a married couple for 50 years, starting on their wedding day in 1898.
He: That was pretty good. For a musical written in the mid-1960s, about a married couple living in the first half of the 20th century, it had some relevant things to say about marriage, gender roles and finding meaning in life.
She: My great-grandparents were married during the same time period as the characters Agnes and Michael. I have a hard time thinking about them having such contemporary emotions.
He: No doubt, and it’s all territory that has been well-traveled in literature, TV, movies and music before and after the musical first opened on Broadway in 1966, but it offers a pleasant comparison of then and now.
She: I liked the way actors Kendra Kassebaum as Agnes and Peter Saide as Michael aged so believably during the course of the show. Their performances were outstanding. Kassebaum and Saide have Broadway and extensive regional theater experience and handle the 100-plus-minute musical with lots of energy.
He: They have to keep it moving. The musical features 19 musical numbers in two acts, with only brief exchanges of dialogue — and sometimes no dialogue — between numbers. Along with some dance and on-stage costume changes, the musical keeps both actors on stage almost constantly. This musical really is dependent on the songs to carry the story and the emotions.
She: The Village orchestra, under the direction of Bruce Monroe, does a fantastic job of accompanying the actors.
“I Do! I Do!” was written by Tom Jones and Harvey Schmidt following their mid-century hit “The Fantasticks.” In both musicals, some of the songs became hits on their own. “Try to Remember” and “Soon It’s Gonna Rain” from “The Fantasticks” were recorded by the likes of Roy Orbison, Liza Minnelli, Gladys Knight, Barbra Streisand and Duke Ellington. From “I Do! I Do!” the hits were “My Cup Runneth Over” and “I Love My Wife,” recorded by Ed Ames, Aretha Franklin, Bing Crosby, Bobby Goldsboro and Frank Sinatra.
He: The musical numbers span an array of topics familiar to most couples, married or not, including honeymoon jitters, children, drudgery, jealousy over work roles and, yep, infidelity, which leads us into one of Kassebaum’s memorable numbers.
When Michael reveals his relationship with a young fan of the romance novels he writes, Agnes is not reluctant to contemplate life on her own and declares it with a fantasy clothes-shopping spree — “Flaming Agnes” — that’s a burlesque striptease in reverse. OK, that’s a 1950s TV-housewife fantasy, but it’s still fun.
She: During the second act they reconcile — though I wondered at one point why Agnes didn’t make good on her threat to leave Michael.
He: She does threaten to leave after their youngest marries, uncertain of what her purpose is now.
She: The couple live through the life-changing empty-nest stage and then settle into the realization that they still need and want each other. All of this is done with fine direction by Michael Arnold; a simple, but smart and ever-changing set by David Sumner; and designers and a crew who makes sure it all happens with finesse.
He: A few lines sound a little dated, but a 50-some-year-old play about five decades of marriage still offers something to talk about on the drive home. We’re short of Agnes’ and Michael’s marriage longevity, but I still love my wife. Do you still love me?
She: I do; I do.
Gale Fiege, a former Herald arts writer and current freelancer, is married to Herald opinion page editor Jon Bauer.
Village Theatre’s “I Do! I Do!” is on stage Wednesdays through Sundays through March 24 at the Everett Performing Arts Center, 2710 Wetmore Ave., Everett. For tickets, call 425-287-8600 or go to villagetheatre.org.
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