MARIE AND BRUCE, Ouijar, at the Lunar Cabaret. I loved the way the Ouijar folks use the Lunar Cabaret space for Wallace Shawn's 1980 Marie and Bruce, placing the audience on what is usually the stage and Marie and Bruce's dismal New York apartment in a pit. We're literally looking down on these two as they begin their Albee-esque day of bickering sadism and passive aggression. And I loved the way director Rachel Klem uses the full depth of the cabaret space for a climactic party scene in which Bruce, a little drunk, turns from victim to victimizer and Marie from dominatrix to slave.
If only Klem's actors understood Shawn's characters as well as the uncredited set designer understood the space. But instead of a nuanced portrait of a sick, barely functional marriage, we get an hour and 15 minutes of fussing and fighting unrelieved by Shawn's dark comedy or insightful hints that Marie and Bruce (like George and Martha in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?) need the comfortable hell they've created.
It doesn't help that Pamela Chermansky and Mike Kelly as Marie and Bruce never manage to move beyond their characters' first beats. From first to last Marie is just another hectoring fishwife, and Bruce a long-suffering, Milquetoast hubby. Even when Shawn clearly intends the tables to turn, Chermansky keeps kvetching, Kelly keeps cowering, and we in the audience keep struggling to stay awake. --Jack Helbig