This may be an odd thing to say about "Marie and Bruce,"Wallace Shawn's sardonically bleak portrayal of marital misery, but Catastrophic Theatre's current show likely will make most people feel good about their own partnerships.
Cooper and Scott discover every crumb of hurt, deception, and unrequited love required for Shawn's mordant play to take effect as well as it does. They tread lightly between comedy and out-and-out tragedy as they dissect the everyday little shocks that a relationship, married or otherwise, is forever heir to. No one really listens, Shawn says, no one pays attention. But can you blame them, when what's hurled at them is so vile, so hurtful?
The Catastrophic Theatre's production of MARIE AND BRUCE is the perfect compliment to all the syrupy holiday fair being produced elsewhere. With fantastic drama and chuckle and guffaw inducing dark humor, MARIE AND BRUCE is a thought-provoking exploration of just how inhumane and utterly devastating human relationships can truly be. It's not a feel good show, but you'll leave the theatre positively excited about the quality production you witnessed. And, if you're like me, you'll wake up the next morning radiant and overjoyed because of how good the show was.
Wallace Shawn's "Marie and Bruce" are one of those couples - you know, like Edward Albee's George and Martha in "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?"
So awash in mutual contempt and animosity that you wonder why they stay together.
Or, maybe you understand perfectly.
Tamarie Cooper and Charlie Scott know Marie and Bruce well. They played the vituperative pair in Infernal Bridegroom Productions' 1999 staging of Shawn's 1978 off-Broadway play, and now they return to the roles in Catastrophic Theatre's new production, again directed by Jason Nodler. It opens Friday.
Catastrophic Theatre, Houston's leading alternative stage company, is announcing a 2014 season of six productions, constituting the company's busiest and most ambitious lineup to date.
Founding artistic director Jason Nodler, a nationally recognized director whose productions have won praise in the New York Times and American Theatre magazine, is scheduling more shows, more new works and more regional premieres by noted contemporary dramatists.
Included are two world premieres by resident playwright Miki Johnson, the third in Catastrophic's ongoing series of avant-garde classics, Tamarie Cooper's 17th original musical and Houston premieres of critically acclaimed plays by avant-garde favorites Lisa D'Amour and Will Eno.
The play is tremendously funny and it's an outrageous comedy, but more than that it's a devastating comedy. You will be laughing so hard and suddenly there's a catharsis that happens on stage.
In special celebration of their 20 years making theatre together, Nodler, Cooper, and Scott will reprise their roles as director and lead actors in Marie and Bruce, a devastating comedy about a terrible marriage that will probably last forever
Tamarie Cooper (Marie) is beloved by Houston audiences for her original summer musicals but she is also a highly accomplished dramatic actress
Charlie Scott (Bruce) likewise took a very long break from acting in the service of child rearing. Having appeared in highly memorable roles in dozens of plays with Infernal Bridegroom Productions, he made his return to the stage in a widely lauded performance of Estragon in Catastrophic's Waiting for Godot earlier this year.
Back in Houston, Jason Nodler, co-artistic director of Catastrophic Theatre, has some similar ideas about Marie and Bruce. The Wallace Shawn play about a bad marriage is a kind of ironic anniversary celebration for the 20-year collaboration between artistic directors Nodler and Tamarie Cooper. He directed and she starred in the play in 1999. But why preform it Nov. 22-Dec. 14, when we should be nearing our apex of joy and good cheer?
“We always try to provide an alternative to holiday shows; while this is not a proper ‘Holiday Play,’ in a very unusual way Marie and Bruce is indeed a holiday play,” explains Nodler. “The holidays are, for many people, a time of stress or sadness. And for some, even when surrounded by friends or family, the holidays can be a lonely time. Marie and Bruce is about a difficult marriage that will probably last forever, and so we feel it might be cathartic for people who have those difficult responses to the holidays, whether they say so or not.”
Actors Troy Schulze and Amy Bruce talk about The Catastrophic Theatre’s world-premiere production ofThe Pine, the newest play by a writer whose work the company has championed: Mickle Maher.
In "The Pine," Maher spins a wistful/loopy fairy tale that is poetic, romantic, philosophical and metaphysical - sometimes all at once.
The haunted setting is a ghostly hotel that serves as a way station between life and death for souls who have lost their greatest loves and can never cease grieving. Mourning hero Gordon attempts to follow his girlfriend, Danelle, who's committed suicide, and finds himself trapped in a labyrinth of infinite rooms. Gordon confronts various bizarre figures as he tries to find Danelle, break the hotel's spell and contrive some way for them both to check out.
Anyone who attended Catastrophic's previous Maher outings will confirm his is one of the most original voices writing today, in any medium. Each of those plays proved unique - a freshly original, blessedly unpredictable experience.
The award determination is made by the American Theatre Wing, the creator of the Tony Awards. Along with the recognition there's a $10,000 grant. Catastrophic was one of only ten theater companies to receive the award this year.
Adding to that quality, diversity and dynamism will be the upcoming world premiere of playwright Mickle Maher's (There is a Happiness That Morning Is) most recent work in verse: The Pine, running September 27 through October 19.
The American Theatre Wing has announced the recipients of its 2013 National Theatre Company Grants. This year's recipients are: [...] The Catastrophic Theatre (Houston, Texas)
Wallace Shawn’s work was rarely seen in Houston until Catastrophic Theatre mounted their critically acclaimed production of Shawn’s Our Late Night, followed by the Houston premiere of the writer’s masterwork, The Designated Mourner. This November, it’s Marie and Bruce, Shawn’s 1979 portrait of marital misery.
Their track record with rhymster Mickle Maher is equally satisfying, and includes The Strangerer, Spirits to Enforce, and this month, the world premiere of The Pine, a play Maher created especially for Catastrophic, funded by a grant from The MAP Fund
What’s the difference between the non-italicized Tamarie Cooper and Tamarie Cooper?
I suppose the italicized version is the caricature version of me. Red wig, jazz hands, a bit more daffiness, and more dick jokes. Wait … the dick jokes are present in both versions of myself.
Tamarie Cooper’s Old As Hell does not disappoint. Anyone who has ever felt like a victim of their age will relate to its message and learn an invaluable lesson about coming to terms with your position in life no matter how old you are.
Cast members from The Catastrophic Theatre, along with director, writer and star Tamarie Cooper, treat us to songs from her new musical extravaganza, Old As Hell.
For an entertainingly good time, musical numbers filled with verve, witty situations, and deft satire, get to this annual jamboree of Tamarie Cooper and friends. You will love it.
Cooper remains funny as ever, plying her defining, seemingly incongruous blend of wry self-deprecation and sly self-aggrandizement. Her falling-down-stairs-in-slow-motion routine is a mini-masterpiece of inspired nonsense. She also has directed the antics with speed, punch and amusing business. The game cast performs her lively, spoof-y choreography with energy and precision.
Tamarie Cooper's OLD AS HELL is meh. NOT! In fact, this year's offering in the cherished tradition of Houston theatre's summer line-up sparkles with clever wit and ebullient hilarity. This may only be my second summer to see a Tamarie Cooper musical, but in so many ways I found this one better than last year's raucously irreverent DOOMSDAY REVUE. Maybe with one Tamarie Cooper show under my belt, I had a better idea of what to expect. Maybe like a good wine Tamarie Cooper is only getting better with age. Or maybe it's both. Regardless, I sincerely wish I had been there to see them all.