BWW Reviews: The Catastrophic Theatre's MARIE AND BRUCE is Gut Wrenching Dark Comedy
In 1999 Jason Nodler directed Tamarie Cooper and CharLes Scott as the titular characters in Infernal Bridegroom's production of Wallace Shawn's MARIE AND BRUCE. Celebrating 20 years of Jason Nodler and Tamarie Cooper making theatre together and the fifth anniversary of The Catastrophic Theatre, the company is closing their 2013 season with a revival of their acclaimed production of MARIE AND BRUCE. Jason Nodler, Tamarie Cooper, and CharLes Scott are all returning to the production in their previous roles, and each ensures that Houston audiences are gifted with an incredible night of theatre.
Wallace Shawn's 1978 play MARIE AND BRUCE has been met with its fair share of controversy and disapproval over the years. However, in my estimation, it may be one of the cleverest portraits of marital dysfunction and dissatisfaction ever written. Taking us through seemingly trivial episodes in one day of Marie and Bruce's tumultuous relationship, Wallace Shawn confronts the audience with his sharp tongued and unhappy couple as they wake-up and prepare for their day, attend a cocktail party at a friend's house, and as they eat dinner at an Italian restaurant. Despite the mundane triviality of these occurrences, what makes the play so powerful and impacting is that we, as the audience, never know what Marie actually says to Bruce. Many of her lines seem to fly past him, as if she is verbalizing her internal monologue only for us.
Direction by Jason Nodler engages the audience and brings affecting gravity to the production. Boldly, he places the titular characters on stage and in full view of the audience as we take our seats. Tamarie Cooper's Marie is sitting upright, looking troubled and annoyed. CharLes Scott's Bruce tosses and turns, sleeping. This makes the opening obscenities uttered by Marie both shocking and funny. Yet, as the play progresses, the audience's heart breaks for Marie. With her rough language, anger, and hatred, we see a broken woman that we cannot help but sympathize with. Likewise, he has coached CharLes Scott's Bruce to be indifferent and uninterested in his wife's misery, making his character entirely unlikable from opening to close. Through the lens of Wallace Shawn, Jason Nodler, and CharLes Scott, we are exposed to a man that repulses us just as much as he disgusts Marie.
This was my first production of MARIE AND BRUCE to see, and I was completely fascinated by Tamarie Cooper's mesmerizing performance as Marie. I was so blown away by the animosity she expressed that I simply cannot imagine that when she was 14 years younger that it played as well as it does now. Wallace Shawn carefully never exposes how long Marie and Bruce have been married, but the way Tamarie Cooper plays the role, I imagined they married in their late 20s and were possibly nearing their 10 or even 15 year anniversary. Thus, her bitterness and delivery of lines like "I've never loved you" were amazingly affective, biting, and simultaneously gut wrenching. Tamarie Cooper's Marie is a tortured soul that we root for. She bares her pain and sorrow for us to carry with her in hopes that she will actually leave Bruce.