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.”
Taken by itself, Fleaven is light, fun, and very silly, but when viewed as a comic continuation of some of the themes Johnson first wrestled with in American Falls, the play takes on some added depth. Somewhere around the denouement as Flame and Heaven voice their regret for their mutual betrayal, I found myself remembering American Falls. In both plays, love easily morphs into obsession, oppression, and violence. With that violence comes the severing of community ties.