The Marriage of Bette and Boo in Concert
The Marriage of Bette and Boo
October 29, 2003
Christopher Durang has always had a unique theatrical voice. His heady mix of wit, anger, and pathos are probably best illustrated in his play "The Marriage of Bette and Boo." It was given a memorable debut production in 1985 at the Public Theater with Jerry Zaks directing a cast that included Joan Allen, Olympia Dukakis, Bill Moor, Mercedes Ruehl, and Durang himself as Matt, the son of Bette and Boo. It has continued to have a thriving life outside New York, becoming a staple in regional theatres throughout the U.S. Now it's New York's turn again as The Actors Company Theatre (TACT), which is dedicated to presenting "great plays in concert performances," has elected to begin its 11th season with this original and important comedy. This time around, despite many chuckles, the play seems darker-and deeper.
The play tells a story that covers 30 years of unhappiness that begin with the blessed union of the title. The two participants come complete with dysfunctional families attached. Bette (Eve Michelson) has a father, Paul (James Prendergast), whom the playwright has deprived of functional speech; a mother, Margaret (Cynthia Harris), who is firmly optimistic; and two sisters, the neurotic Emily (Kate Ross) and bitter Joan (Jenn Thompson). Boo (Scott Schafer) has a mean father, Karl (James Murtaugh), and a ditsy, put-upon mother, Soot (Cynthia Darlow). Ever present in the proceedings is the Catholic Church, here represented by Father Donnally (Gregory Salata). As commentating Chorus and central character-and Durang's alter ego-there is Matt (Greg McFadden), the only living child of the union.
From every angle it is a devastating critique on marriage and the Catholic Church, heaped with telling detail that is foolishly funny and strangely sad. Scott Alan Evans directs a first-class company, where each member is given occasion to shine. If Michelson and McFadden stand out, it is because Durang has given them that extra depth of both role and soul.