The Marriage of Bette and Boo
Fri Jul 11 2008
Photograph: Joan Marcus
Time Out Ratings<strong>Rating: </strong>5/5
Bumbling through Thanksgiving dinner, an alcoholic father stumbles into a guest. Bang! The sauceboat hits the floor, and Dad goes for the Hoover. “You don’t vacuum gravy! You don’t vacuum gravy!” shrieks the overwhelmed mother, as their son turns red. Mortifying? Yes. Depressingly familiar? Two for two. But in the Roundabout Theatre Company’s revival of Christopher Durang’s black burlesque The Marriage of Bette and Boo, it’s also screamingly funny. Durang is our piss-taker laureate of the institutions that screw us up: religion, therapy, the universal affliction of having a family.
Durang’s autobiographical stand-in, Skippy (Charles Socarides), walks us through a cartoonish portrait of his upbringing—booze, religious neurosis and all. At the center of the mess pirouettes Bette (Kate Jennings Grant), who cheerily insists on having babies in the face of certain failure. Husband Boo (Christopher Evan Welch) flees to the bottle, and her Mephistophelean father-in-law (John Glover) cackles, “I think it’s time your next stillborn was baptized!,” while dousing her in vodka. And yet she keeps fighting.
Designer David Korins creates a shifting, scarlet box that lets director Walter Bobbie send actors across it like fun-house shooting targets. From the bright, two-dimensional get-go, Bobbie and Durang’s stylizations dovetail perfectly. Performances tread the line between caricature and realism—everyone gets a gold star, while the mothers Victoria Clark and Julie Haggerty should get a personal hug from each audience member. But this is Bette’s play—and therefore Grant’s. She combines folly and courage and warmth all at once. Be grateful: It’s the only good marriage you’ll see all evening.