The Day Emily Married
It gets off to a rather slow start with an opening scene that primarily consists of exposition. Set in the summer of 1955, all of the action unfolds in the Davis household. Lee Davis (William Biff McGuire) is a successful farmer and landowner who has worked hard all his life and now wishes to retire. His wife, Lyd (Estelle Parsons), spends most of her days indoors and may be losing her mental stability. Their daughter Emily, a divorcee, is about to be married to Richard (James Colby). Lee plans to sell all of his farms and use the money to set Richard up in a small business. Played with charm and confidence by Colby, Richard seems like a decent, hardworking fellow but his motives for marrying Emily are a bit suspicious.
Despite the play's title, the actual day of Emily's wedding to Richard is not depicted; the second scene jumps forward a month and, by this point, the newlyweds are living at home with Emily's parents. Lyd displays a rather fanatical attachment to her collection of family portraits, which adorn a wall of Jeff Cowie's handsome set. In many ways, Lyd lives in the past, clinging to these reminders of the way things used to be while constantly comparing Richard to Emily's first husband, Ben. To a lesser extent, Lee does the same thing. "We loved another world," he states late in the play, "a world that was gone and we didn't know was gone."
Parsons creates a vivid physical portrait of Lyd, complete with nervous gestures and other idiosyncratic mannerisms. While her voice sounds a bit shrill, that's in keeping with Lyd's emotional state. Hallie Foote puts up a confident, even brusque façade that appears to go against the grain of her character -- but when she does allow Emily's vulnerability to show through, the effect is quite moving. McGuire often seems a bit too stiff as Lee, and a scene in which he repeatedly grasps his son-in-law by the shoulders plays awkwardly as a result.