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The Mass Media

The Mass Media

The Marriage of Bette and Boo

Many people say that their family life is anything but normal. I always thought the only “perfect” families were on T.V. The blissful sitcom life of The Brady Bunch living out their happy lives experiencing nothing but wonderful times. After seeing Christopher Durang’s The Marriage of Bette and Boo, I realized that the term “dysfunctional family” was invented when this family came along. A far cry from the Bradys’, Bette and Boo tells the insane story of this far from normal family.

The Theatre Arts Department opened their 2004-2005 season on October 21 with this hysterical, and sometimes bittersweet comedy. Directed by Professor Laura Schrader this romp through the life of these unusual characters takes the audience on a tailspin ride that won’t soon be forgotten.

The play begins with the marriage of Bette (Robin Traub), the naïve and unrealistic bride and her groom Boo (Eric Barriere), the kindhearted alcoholic. Bette was brought up in a supportive, optimistic household, but disillusioned at the same time. Her mother Margaret (Kerri Leigh) raised her children to be devoutly catholic and played into the Irish papist stereotype of turning her eyes to her children’s problems. Bette’s father Paul (Matt Flynn), was mostly ignored by his family because of his distinct and rarely intelligible speech impediment. Her sister Joani (Laura Kain) was tempestuous and constantly having babies. Bette’s other sister Emily (Heather Phillips) was emotionally impaired and always praying for the Lord’s forgiveness (and everyone else’s for that matter). Boo was raised by his father Karl (Chris DeCambria), a chauvinistic lover of dumb-blondes and by Soot (Dalilah Freedwoman), the dazed and always giddy mother.

The plot revolves around the newly wed couple’s obsessions, Bette wants to start a family, and all Boo can think about is liquor. Her first pregnancy produces a son named Matt (Paul Norton), who is nicknamed Skippy after Bette’s favorite movie. Matt narrates the story between scenes and in some he is part of the action. Longing to have a large family Bette tries to have more children but endures five stillborn pregnancies. She seeks the guidance of Father Donnally (Chibuzo Azubuine), who tells her to continue working to make the family she wants, and hopefully a miracle will happen. The story follows the couple through the eyes of their only child, and relates how having a dysfunctional family affected his life.

The play had the audience in stitches due to a talented cast. Dalilah Freedwoman’s portrayal of the ditsy mother had me amused for entire evening. Other notable performances were Chibuzo Azubuine’s exuberant priest, Kerri Leigh’s take on the eternal matriarch, and Heather Phillip’s insanely asthmatic catholic goody-goody. The cast all worked very well with one another, chemistry was on target.

The set was constructed by the hard work of the Theatre Crafts class, and looked like a Tim Burton creation. Heather Phillips had another roll as costume designer, and made each character stand out with distinctly colored costumes. The set, costumes and cast made the zany play come to life. The Drama Workshop class also worked diligently on publicity, props, lighting, and sound to make the whole production flow effectively. The stage manager Laura Freitas and assistant Tom Hughes oversaw the production.

This was an extremely hilarious take on a difficult play to portray. The cast and crew worked tirelessly to make this production a success and all should be commended for a wonderful outcome. The Drama Workshop will now be preparing for their next production, Neil Simon’s Laughter on the 23rd Floor, directed by Paul Norton. I encourage UMB students to take advantage of the opportunity to see quality productions at reasonable rates! The workshop class works extremely hard to let others have a good time, and that’s what it is all about. Laughter will open in December, for more information go to the Theatre Arts Department office located on the second floor of McCormack Hall.