The Marriage of Bette and Boo is by renowned American playwright Christopher Durang – winner of a number of Tony Awards. This is a play written by Durang in the early 1980s, but one that endures throughout time; largely because it tells the tale of the author's own upbringing. It brings to life a score of vivid, often outrageous characters in a satirical style that often contains very dark comedy. Other moments are simply amusing, but this play is never one that is anything other than entertaining and thought provoking.
Beginning in the 1950s, the play spans a period of about 30 years. Bette and Boo get married and each come from highly dysfunctional families. Boo, just like his father, is an alcoholic. Bette has addictions of her own – despite being told by doctors that she has a condition which means her babies are likely to be born dead, Bette cannot stop herself from trying to have the large family she always fantasised about as a child. The one surviving child, whose name is Matt, is also the protagonist of the play – telling us the story of his life from the wings, and introducing us to the many humorous, sometimes sad, but always thought provoking events of his life.
There's the Brennan and the Hudlocke families; the Brennans belonging to Bette, and the Hudlockes belonging to Boo. The Brennan family includes a group of three sisters (one of whom is Bette), and includes the cynical, sharp-tongued Joan, and the highly sensitive and nuerotic Emily. There's the controlling mother, Margaret, and the father Paul who is the victim of a stroke and dies during the play. The Hudlockes have one son (Boo) and his mother Soot can't remember where she got her name from. (It's not her original name, but one that was given to her by her somewhat unlikeable husband, Karl). Karl repesents almost everything anyone could possibly dislike in the men of his period and belittles his wife and son on a regular, ongoing basis. So, what is funny about all of this? Christopher Durang's wit and insight offers a razor sharp satire about denial and what it does to us.
Inherent in the play is also a satire on religion; and in particular, the Catholic Church. There's a Priest who does impersonations of bacon, and Emily wonders if her leaving the convent is the cause of the death of her sister Bette's babies. Durang takes a sharp, dark comic look at the way religion can shape and also manipulate us.
The protagonist Matt is also seen throughout his various stages of life. He is the child of Bette and Boo, and becomes far better educated than either of his parents. He looks at life through the eyes of a philosopher, and asks questions about the ways in which his childhood shaped him. He is ever seeking answers about what made his family the way they were, and what kinds of influence they had on his own personality. In this respect, The Marriage of Bette and Boo is very much a thinking person's comedy.
The performers are all adult recreational students from a drama school called Drama With A Difference – one of Australia's leading independent drama schools (established for over 20 years). They come from a wide demographic, with some having been on stage a number of times, and others coming to brave the stage for the very first time. All come with enthusiasm and joy for the process of acting.
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