The Marriage of Bette and Boo Offers a Rare Laugh at Infant Mortality

Mildred's Umbrella, the humble shoestring theater company that always delivers, is currently showing a brief run of The Marriage of Bette and Boo by Christopher Durang. Typically, anything by Durang just reminds us of pimply, high-school-theater kids auditioning for terrible one-act incarnations of Durang's shows for UIL one-act play competitions. So it's nice to see one his plays where the parents aren't played by 15 year-olds.

The Marriage of Bette and Boo follows a dysfunctional couple as they quarrel their way through a generation of dead babies. The wife, Bette, is a neurotic and childish woman who bears a startling emotional resemblance to Betsy, the ex-wife on Mad Men. The husband, Boo, is a reasonable and tolerant man who just wants an opportunity to get a drink--kind of like ... Don Draper. Uncanny.

The troubled couple has a child and then continues to have stillborn babies that are dropped on the floor in a way that actually makes us feel very comfortable laughing at infant mortality. The rest of the show is a mixture of character studies on the ridiculous nature of families and Catholic ideology.

One of the enchanting things about the Mildred's production is the simple and underwhelming set. There are four simple backdrop pieces and a few pieces of furniture that get continually re-used. Everyone in the show works between scenes (33 in total) to get the set ready for the next. The lack of glitz highlights the fact that everyone in the cast is pretty damn good.

The quickly-paced show never gets too serious. The cast does a fantastic job of portraying the idiocy we all find in our family (or lovers' family). There's the nonsensical father, the drunk father, the space-cadet mother, the helicopter mother, the neurotic sister, the questionable priest, and the disgruntled sister. The intellectual narrator/child (who doesn't die) pieces the parts of his dysfunctional family together while proving he's read Thomas Hardy's novels. The show revolves around the ensemble, and it's great.

(The Marriage of Betty and Boo runs through October 23 at Midtown Art Center, 3414 LaBranch at Holman. Visit www.mildredsumbrella.com for more information.)

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