The new play from Houston playwright/actor Miki Johnson, clean/through in a world premiere, illuminates the power of addiction, both to drugs and to relationships, as she focuses on the sobering effects on participants, on companions, and on family.
No, "clean/through" is more like a stage equivalent of cinéma vérité: a series of unadorned scenes that seem to simply happen, spontaneously and inevitably, each playing out in real time. Some of the scenes involve many words, some involve few words, some none at all. The effect of this hourlong one-act is taut and disturbing. The primary impulse is to look away, try to distance one's self, yet the doings have some of the same fascination as a grisly train wreck or 12-car pileup on the highway.
Although the subject matter might seem depressing, even the darkest play can be enjoyable if it’s well-executed, and even the peppiest play can be depressing if it’s a theatrical failure. Let’s just say that I leftclean/through with a smile on my face.
The play begins with the pair returning home after a disastrous, potentially career-ending concert. The star was wasted, with the audience all too painfully aware. Once home, the couple have a confrontation about their circumstances. As "clean/through" follows the couple through the aftermath of this crisis, it looks at fame and fortune - and their absence.
"It is a love story," Johnson says. "And while it's pretty dark, it's also very experiential, impressionistic, with aspects of magic realism. It has different rules - along with its heavy, dark side.
Catastrophic Theatre resident playwright Miki Johnson, who stirred excitement with the company’s 2012 world premieres of her drama “American Falls” and camp musical “Fleaven,” will have two world premieres at Catastrophic in 2014: “clean/through” in February and “The Economist” in November. Johnson was in New York last month, meeting with reps of top off-Broadway companies, including The Public, Atlantic Theatre, Clubbed Thumb, Soho Rep and Playwrights Horizons. One result is that another of her new works, “God Is a Good God,” will have a staged reading in New York in spring, helmed by Catastrophic artistic director Jason Nodler. Johnson and Nodler are partners offstage, as well.
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.