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Marie and Bruce at Catastrophic Examines the Comedy and Pain of a Marriage

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Catastrophic Theatre Director Jason Nodler used to think Wallace Shawn's Marie and Bruce was, as another writer once put it: "about a terrible marriage that would probably last forever"

That was in 1999 when Nodler and Infernal Bridegroom Productions first put on the play with actors Tamarie Cooper and Charlie Scott in the title roles. Now, Nodler says, as he prepares to stage the play with the same actors again, he thinks that was an oversimplification.

"Perhaps this isn't a terrible marriage but a terrible time in the marriage. Perhaps this is not a terrible marriage but only a marriage," because with the advantage of time, Nodler says, he knows that relationships are difficult.

The premise of the 75-minute one-act is fairly straightforward. The couple who have been married for an indeterminate amount of time start their day with Marie determined to leave Bruce.

"She's very angry with him he does not engage. In one way it might be his form of warfare in this contentious relationship but in another way he's entirely unaware of the problem. And it's his inability to intimacy. And she needs that intimacy very badly," Nodler says.

They go their separate ways during the day and then reunite for a party (when Houston Rockets General Manager Daryl Morey will make his acting debut) and dinner that night. "The entire play is extremely funny until they go to dinner after the party and suddenly the bottom drops out. The play ends on an ambiguous note. By the end of the play we don't know what will happen. I think that that's a wonderful metaphor for life. Nothing in life is inevitable. There is a reason that people stay together even though their relationships are complicated and difficult. We always know where the door is; you can always leave and the fact that people don't I think suggests that there's something very important in the bond between two people.

"The play is tremendously funny and it's an outrageous comedy, but more than that it's a devastating comedy. You will be laughing so hard and suddenly there's a catharsis that happens on stage."

Marie and Bruce runs November 22 through December 14, Thursdays through Saturdays 8 p.m. at Catastrophic Theatre, 1119 East Freeway. For information call 713-522-2723 or visit catastrophictheatre.com. Pay what you can.

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