Strong acting and a powerful script create an authentic drama, presented unflinchingly in all its measured detail.
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.
The more I thought about and revisited the performances, I began to weep openly. This play stays with you and will haunt you for some time, and you'll be glad that it does.
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.
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)