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Crude ‘Marie and Bruce’ Reveals Marriage Made in Hell: Review

Marisa Tomei and Frank Whaley in
Marisa Tomei and Frank Whaley in "Marie and Bruce" in New York. Photographer: Monique Carboni/Seven17 Public Relations via Bloomberg

April 6 (Bloomberg) -- There’s talk of brutish sex, bestiality, urinary infections and excrement in “Marie and Bruce.”

Fortunately, given its high cringe quotient, Wallace Shawn’s 1978 absurdist comedy, revived by the New Group, is all talk and no action.

“Let me tell you something,” says Marie (Marisa Tomei) addressing the audience as she rises from bed in her nightgown. “I find my husband so God damned irritating that I’m planning to leave him. And that’s a fact.”

“Yes, I’m sick of you!” she shrieks to spouse Bruce (Frank Whaley), whose hair stands on end, Peter Sellars-style. “Do you get it? You’re driving me insane! I can’t stand living with you for one more minute!”

The action, such as it is, shifts from the bedroom to a party of fatuous urbanites to a cafe. Bruce takes Marie’s wrath in stride. “Well, don’t be irritable, darling,” he gurgles. Later, he recounts in all-too-graphic detail his memorable assignation 20 years earlier with another woman.

Sex has seldom been less tasty than in this 105-minute talkfest. Be warned: There’s no intermission to stage a getaway.

Tomei is appropriately shrill and distraught at the opening, easing into a gradual calm as we learn that this is just another day in her marriage. Whaley is less convincing in a role that’s cartoonish and repellent.

Scott Elliott directs with finesse, most evident in a dinner party scene that’s set on a revolving stage and punctuated by snippets of “Rapture” by Blondie.

Through May 7 at 410 W. 42nd St. Information: +1-239-6200; Rating: *

What the Stars Mean:
****        Excellent
***         Very Good
**          Average
*           Not So Good
(No stars)  Avoid

(Philip Boroff is a critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. The opinions expressed are his own.)

To contact the writer on this story: Philip Boroff in New York at

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Manuela Hoelterhoff at

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