It started with a bunch of orphans and a dog.
At least that’s how actors Mary and Gregory Gjurich met in real life. They were both cast in a production of “Annie” in 1983 at St. Gregory the Great Church in Williamsville. She as the Rising Star and he as ne’er do well Rooster Hannigan. “When she walked in,” says Gregory, “I turned to my friend and said that’s the girl I’m going to marry.”
And marry they did on April 9, 1988. Which means they will celebrate a marquee anniversary during the run of “I Do!, I Do!,” at O’Connell & Company, when they are portraying the show’s fictional married couple Agnes and Michael.
This is not the first trip to the on-stage altar for the Gjurichs. Through the years, they’ve played all three married couples in “Baby,” and they’ve played opposite each other as love interests plenty of times.
“I Do!, I Do!” is different though: this story spans 50 years on stage. Mary says, “This show takes you on the journey from the beginning, and it’s quite a journey. A lot of things happen in this show. Children, his work, their lives…it’s a fun journey.” Greg says, “It really touches the realities of relationships, and it’s told with love, and it’s told from a good place.”
This production will be performed the way it was when “I Do! I Do!” was first produced in the 1960s: as a period piece beginning in 1895. It works this way. Greg says, “The purity of the relationship could get completed by modern things, like the immediacy of a cell phone call. Keeping it in the ‘40s is putting it in a simpler time.”
There’s a beautiful complexity between Agnes and Michael as they grow into their union. Like every couple, they have their challenges, their funny moments, their somber moments. And like every couple, how they communicate with each other sets the tone for their story. Greg says, “The playwright observed a lot of communication in married couples. It’s like he knows it’s going to bug her…” And Mary chimes in with a laugh, saying “Those are the moments that resonate. I could have easily said that she knows it’s going to bug him…” It’s these moments that make the script and the character interactions so real. It’s also a caveat for real life Mary and Greg: Mary says, “Greg and I have to be careful. We know each other so well. On stage we have to live outside ourselves.”
Both actors credit director Bobby Cook and his open, collaborative style for giving them the latitude to develop Agnes and Michael on stage. “Bobby has his vision, and we have our vision together. We morph into each other.” Greg says, “We talk about it. Then he wants to see what comes out of it. It’s kind of neat.”
It may be an idealized stage version of marriage (Greg said O’Connell & Company executive and artistic director Mary Kate O’Connell said it was written to look like a Norman Rockwell painting coming to life), but in many ways, Agnes and Michael’s journey is full of the same highs and lows of any marriage. Married couples – from newlyweds to matured relationships – will relate to those familiar, every-couple moments. As an almost 30-year veteran of a real-life marriage to his favorite leading lady, Greg says, “You’ll go away with a smile. It’s a lovely piece. That purity will make you sigh.” Just like true love.
“I Do! I Do!” is onstage at O’Connell & Company from April 5 to May 6, 2018. For more information, click here.
Promotional Consideration Paid For By The Theatre Alliance Of Buffalo.