Theater Review: Life in a Marital Institution

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07/07/2008 2:03 PM |

Theater critic Mary Block went to Life in a Marital Institution (get it? get it? get it?) last weekend. Are you married? Did you still drink from your mom’s breast when you were in first grade?

James Braly (there he is over there) is still wearing his wedding ring–you can see it flashing when he moves his hand. This fact is pretty shocking, frankly, given the details that he reveals about his wife, Susan, and their marriage in his one man show. Life in a Marital Institution‘s subtitle, “20 Years of Monogamy in One Terrifying Hour” is not much of an exaggeration: Braly admits that rage and loathing are two of the major forces binding him and his wife together, and they are both, in their own ways, repugnant people. After 70 minutes you can’t help feeling twinges of sympathy for them, though, and admiring them for staying together (if not totally understanding why).

Braly’s drawn a good portion of the show’s comedy from his wife’s alternative parenting: she’s letting her kids self-wean (read: her six-year-old is nursing) and has moved them upstate to live in a progressive commune with a shaman named Rainbow Feather. Braly (a former corporate speechwriter who owes a lot to Jerry Seinfeld, stylistically and aesthetically) throws his hands up and laughs with the audience as his revelations get increasingly bizarre. It seems as if he wrote the play in part to garner affirmation that the people he surrounds himself with are, in fact, insane. He’s saved from irredeemable snarkiness, though, by his intense self-awareness, exposed in sound-bites whose perfect pitch and timing reveal the careful speechwriter behind the eye-rolling and banter. They work, though: Braly is terribly human and exceedingly funny in addressing the endurance and humility he’s needed to make his marriage last.

Life in a Marital Institution
The Soho Playhouse- 15 Vandam St
June 26- August 31

4 Comment

  • That $55 dollars better include a post-show breast feeding.

  • Hahahah. Good job.

  • I’ve seen Life in a Marital Institution and hereby proclaim James Braly to be the funniest man in America. Not since Spalding Gray, has there been a monologue this compelling, witty and intelligent. With precisely calibrated story-telling, he slowly draws us into his world of outrageous circumstances: we begin as spectators, laughing at him, then with him, and by the end, we’re stunned to recognize ourselves at the center. Moving deftly between genres, he brings the audience on a hilarious journey to the far reaches of satire, and back again to a realism that touches the heart. If you’ve ever had a family, a relationship, a marriage (or two), and/or you’ve lost all of the above, this is a show for you. All to say, Braly’s Life is for everyone, that rare piece of theater that is as entertaining as it is illuminating.

    – Pam Katz

    Screenwriter (Rosenstrasse, The Other Woman)

  • uhhh….thanks Pam