Saturday, April 30, 2011

After the Love Is Gone in 'Marie and Bruce'

Marisa Tomei and Frank Whaley as a bickering couple in “Marie and Bruce.” Photos by Monique Carboni.


WALLACE Shawn’s “Marie and Bruce”
is an offbeat story of love gone askew in which the titular couple is locked in a dance of regrets and recriminations.

As the play opens, Marie (Marisa Tomei) spews a torrent of nasty at Bruce (Frank Whaley) as he snores beside her. Addressing the audience, Marie announces her intention to leave Bruce.

When Bruce awakens, he phlegmatically answers her jeers with “Well, darling.” It is one of his standard responses to her acrimonious assaults.

Much of the action in “Marie and Bruce,” in a revival by The New Group at the Acorn Theatre through 7 May, is explained by Marie’s expositions. For instance, she describes how her day has passed as she prepares to meet Bruce at a dinner party.

Tina Benko and Frank Whaley as dinner party guests in "Marie and Bruce."

Incidentally, Marie doesn’t understand why Bruce likes parties so much because she really doesn’t enjoy them at all. At this gathering, the scene breaks out into pockets of combative conversation. It becomes clear as the evening wears on that Marie and Bruce are mutually abusive, he passively and she more aggressively.

There have always been couples like this. “Marie and Bruce” is a day in the life of a married pair who take pleasure in torturing each other, repeating skirmishes from the night before and fighting and forgiving the unforgivable things they say to each other.

The cast is rounded out by the host, Frank (Adam Trese), and the dinner party guests : Gloria (Alison Wright), Herb (Devin Ratray), Janet (Tina Benko), Ann (Cindy Katz), Nils (Russell G. Jones) and Ralph (Alok Tewari).

Marie (Marisa Tomei) and Bruce (Frank Whaley) at a café in "Marie and Bruce."

“Marie and Bruce,” niftily directed by Scott Elliot, has a ‘60s scenester quality, particularly during the cleverly staged dinner party scene. On the set by Derek McLane the dinner table moves in a circular motion.

Eavesdropping on the dinner conversations as the table turns lends the play the feel of a weightier, more serious episode of “Laugh-In.”

Visit to learn more about "Marie and Bruce.”

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