Monday, Nov. 30, 2009

In The Details: A Resounding Thump

The Boulevard Theatre's MARRIAGE OF BETTY AND BOO

By Russ Bickerstaff
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It’s the little things that make a production. Even in a bad show, there are moments of brilliance that shine through—the little things that can make even a bad show entertaining for a few moments. Thankfully, this is NOT the case with The Boulevard Theatre’s production of Christopher Durang’s mid-‘80’s family comedy The Marriage of Bettte and Boo.  It’s a comedy about human imperfection that is paired with a pleasantly imperfect production. It’s something of an autobiographical comedy about the author’s family . . . a playwright desperately trying to make sense of his parents, their parents and siblings. Everyone in the ensemble of 10 has  his or her moments . . . even if everything isn’t entirely consistent.

The imperfect author comes to terms with his imperfect parents on a bare stage with few props . . .  it’s a very dark comedy. And one of those elements that makes the whole production so memorable is an element of production that fuses comedy with tragedy. The title characters are analogs of the playwright’s parents. After having had him, they proceed to try to have a series of other kids—all doomed to failure as they are all destined to be miscarriages. Talented comic actor David Flores plays the doctor through a parade of Bette’s miscarriages. Flores has opted for an Indian accent. He plays the obstetrician as well as a priest . . . the priest has his moments, but the obstetrician gets some of the best moments. Those same chairs that serve so many other purposes in the production serve as a doctor’s office waiting room. There’s a dialogue between some of the characters. And then Flores walks out with what is most likely a deflated football in a blanket. He drops the baby to the floor. Thump. It’s the perfect sound—a resounding thump that is both deeply tragic and profoundly funny. It’s the perfect combination. The drop and the tump are so distinctive that they may as well be characters in the production. I’m not sure exactly how director Mark Bucher got that specific effect. I’m assuming it was a  deflated American football in a blanket, but it could have been anything . . . and the sound of that baby hitting the floor with that specific sound . . . with no bounce at all . . . that was a perfect fusion of tragedy and comedy. And it’s elements like that that could’ve  saved the production if it had been truly bad. . . but thankfully, it didn’t need saving. The production is every bit as imperfect as the script and the people it portrays. It’s a fun night at the theatre.

The Boulevard Theatre’s
production of The Marriage of Bette and Boo runs through January 2nd.  A comprehensive review runs in this week’s Shepherd-Express.

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