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Thoughts on THE MARRIAGE of BETTE and BOO

Yankeefan007
Broadway Legend
joined:3/20/04
Broadway Legend
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Thoughts on THE MARRIAGE of BETTE and BOO#1
Posted: 6/28/08 at 8:55pm
I think a lot of Christopher Durang's plays work better read than they do performed. "Bette and Boo" is a very difficult work to pull off. It's as hilariously funny as it is incredibly sad and (I feel that) Durang's script really requires that distinct dichotomy to overlap (which, in itself is a contradiction) for it to really work.

The cast finds much of the humor, but the only member who finds the pathos is Christopher Evan Welch. Welch plays BOO, married to BETTE (Kate Jennings Grant). Unhappily married - he's a drunk, she's a ditz who keeps calendars of days when he's half-drunk or dead drunk. Their son, Matt (Charles Socarides) narrates the events, which include 4 stillborn babies, dropped on the floor by the Doctor, and a marriage retreat with a Father who'd rather imitate bacon than answer the tough questions (Terry Beaver). Bette's sister Emily (Heather Burns) is prone to writing apology notes for any misstep, her father (Adam LeFevre) is a stroke victim who communicates in jibberish, her mother (Victoria Clark) and other sister (Zoe Lister-Jones). Boo's side of the family includes his drunk father (John Glover) and mother "the dumbest white woman alive" (Julie Hagerty).

What makes the play so sad is the fact that in reality, it's based on Durang's life: his father's alcoholism, his mother's having 3 stillbirths because of opposing blood types between her and her husband, and so forth.

It's a mixed bag - I've always loved the play and think it's very well-written, Walter Bobbie's direction for the hollow feeling I felt as I walked out. It's virtually an emotionless production, which does justice to the humor, but not the sadness.

Christopher Welch is the only one who really finds emotion. Terry Beaver is hilarious with an incredible deadpan delivery of nearly every line and Julie Hagerty has really honed her dumbness all these years. Bette's entire side of the family - Heather Burns, Zoe Lister-Jones, Victoria Clark, and Adam LeFevre are strong, as well. Interesting the stage picture - the entire family are tall and (the women) blonde except Lister-Jones, a petite brunette.

John Glover, I felt, played Karl too jokey and not at all threatening. Charles Socarides is a fine narrator, but not entirely compelling. Kate Jennings Grant is still trying to find a character and doesn't ilicit the emotion needed.

Interesting staging, though, staged with rotating panels and few props (which makes the line "you can't vacuum gravy" and the whole "gravy spilling on the rug" sequence bizarre, as there's no gravy or rug.)

Noticed Durang in the back, taking notes. Didn't see Bobbie.
Updated On: 6/28/08 at 08:55 PM
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dramamama611
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joined:12/4/07
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I really love Durang and this play in particular. I'm hoping to get to see this run....but scheduling's not looking good.

Thanks for your vivid thoughts and descriptions!
If we're not having fun, then why are we doing it? These are DISCUSSION boards, not mutual admiration boards. Discussion only occurs when we are willing to hear what others are thinking, regardless of whether it is alignment to our own thoughts.
Yankeefan007
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Shameful bump.
Yankeefan007
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Who else has seen this prod.?
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AC126748
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Funny...I'm really not a great fan of Durang's work, yet I found this production (which I saw in early previews) to be completely satisfying. That essential characteristic which you mentioned--the outlandish silliness married with almost humorous tragedy--was certainly there when I saw the show. (Scene 30 is the perfect example, and I thought that all of the principles handled it beautifully)

I agree with your assessment of Christopher Evan Welch, though--he's the star of this production, and a very fine actor.
"You travel alone because other people are only there to remind you how much that hook hurts that we all bit down on. Wait for that one day we can bite free and get back out there in space where we belong, sail back over water, over skies, into space, the hook finally out of our mouths and we wander back out there in space spawning to other planets never to return hurrah to earth and we'll look back and can't even see these lives here anymore. Only the taste of blood to remind us we ever existed. The earth is small. We're gone. We're dead. We're safe." -John Guare, Landscape of the Body
LadyRosecoe
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joined:8/4/07
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Saw the production this evening and couldn't wait to bump this thread. I'd encourage everyone to see it for the fact that I can't imagine hearing the same opinions twice. For me the standouts were Victoria Clark and Charles Socarides, with the latter emulating a kind of Billy Crudup a la Pillowman sensibility in his narrations of the comic/tragic events. The supporting cast each has their shining moments, but any word that came out of Clark's mouth had me laughing and I've yet to find any performer who can compete with some of her facial expressions.

I think that, like Rabbit Hole, the sadness is woven right into the script and to play it for the sentimental aspect would be too disturbing and depressing. With that said, the comedy was the real driving force. The bizarre and unthinkable actions (my favorites being "You can't VACUUM gravy!" and the baby dropping) are laugh out loud moments, and yet you understand the jaw-dropping gravity of the actions of these people. I'll admit that Durang's writing is extremely stylized to the point where I knew I'd need to read it to try and get a deeper sense of cohesion so I wouldn't exactly expect everything to be spelled out.
LadyRosecoe
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http://www.playbill.com/features/article/119431.html/pg1

Nice article tie in that will hopefully bring some attention to this play.
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Natch
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I really enjoyed the production, and found myself laughing a lot, while at the same time certainly being very sad at the end and therefore leaving feeling a bit disturbed overall, which I believe was the intended effect. I did find the funny/sadness confusing at times, but like I said, I really feel like I was supposed to. Does that make sense? ;P Anyway, I enjoyed it.

plus I couldn't help but get an extra kick out of recognizing Heather Burns from Miss Congeniality... hahaha :P
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logan0215
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I laughed my ass off and really enjoyed all of the performances.

I do agree that there was room for some more emotion though.

There were certain monologues where you could tell the actors were trying to be sincere and the constant stream of dark humor made it hard to take them seriously.

I feel if there was a tad more heart-wrenching sad along with the uber-dark sad-comedy the funny parts would have been even more elevated. I think this would apply more specifically to Kate Jennings Grant's Bette. She plays her sincere in her 50's lifeview, but I feel like if she added a layer of sincerity to her portrayal it would make her comedy (and blow-ups) come off funnier.
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teka21
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I saw this production Thursday evening and found it totally absorbing. The play doesn't really swing back and forth between hilarity and despair- somehow you feel both levels of intense emotion at the same time. While I ached for Durang as voiced by his persona Matt (Skippy), I was so moved by his ability to keep this portrayal of his family so poignant and empathetic. The acting ensemble is superb, and the play moves quickly from scene to scene, a credit to Bobbie's direction. Bravo!