The show is divided into three parts; in the first Marie and Bruce are at home one hot morning after a night of fitful sleep. Marie discusses her partner Bruce with the audience, interrupting her conversation to occasional berate him in a highly crude and graphic manner. It is so over the top, that the audience laughs for a while, seeing this as a black comedy. But her tirade continues, accelerating past uncomfortable, racing by annoying before arriving at wearisome. It is as if the director and author insist on taking any pleasure out of the proceedings - the audience must be as annoyed as the characters are. (The fact that the audience has any empathy left for Marie is a tribute to Marisa Tomei’s delivery and self deprecation.) Marie plans to break up with Bruce that evening, but a party intrudes and she must wait until they go for desert after the party.
|Marisa Tomei, Frank Whaley / Credit: Monique Carboni|
And finally, these two unpleasant people adjourn to a café for part three of the tale. This is where Marie has said she plans to break up with Bruce. By this time, the audience understands that the break up won’t ever happen. For some reason, these two are tied together, through bad times and worse. Protracted silence replaces anger and interplay - but drains the show of energy when it could most use it.
And finally, as they go home, the weather breaks, rains come and things look up. And so we have witnessed a bad day. Wow.
I can’t blame the actors nor the director for this show. The director, Scott Elliott, moves the show in interesting ways, trying to engage the audience, and it works in large part. But the pace of the writing, staring sharp and harsh before winding down out of both energy and new things to say, strains patience. Ultimately, it is an easy show to watch, but difficult to enjoy.
Marie and Bruce (website)
Playwright: Wallace Shawn
Director: Scott Elliott
Cast: Marisa Tomei, Frank Whaley, Tina Benko, Russel G. Jones, Cindy Katz, Devin Ratray, Alok Tewari, Adam Trese, Alison Wright