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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Review- Life in a Marital Institution (The Deep end Productions)

The Fab Marquee review by Peyton Wise.

Life in a Marital Institution gives exactly what the title promises: a witty tale of a crazy marriage. The extent to which you enjoy it depends entirely on your point of view.

Let me start by admitting that I am not this piece’s target audience. The characters are of a certain age and income level and the most appreciative audience members appeared to be in that group. For the young and single, whether happily so or on the partner prowl, pieces about marital problems can feel like getting your palm read in a pawn shop. You may notice that shameless romantics tend to prefer stories that end in marriage to those that begin with it.

James Braly
James Braly (writer-performer)

In this well-constructed one-man show, writer/performer James Braly depicts moments from his combative marriage to a woman who samples the full range of the New Age buffet. Under Hal Brooks’ polished direction, Braly moves seamlessly between these scenes and the frame story of his sister’s deathbed marriage. (It’s funnier than it sounds.) Both Braly’s writing and performance are so clear that you can literally see the action as it unfolds. The story of his sister’s wedding maintains suspense through the episodes of his own marriage, although one conflict of his sister’s wedding feels unresolved at the end of the show. Michael V. Moore’s simple set makes the action more intimate and suggests multiple locations while confining the story to none. Lucrecia Briceno’s lights sharply delineate time and place, although at times the backlighting can be a bit hard on the front rows.

There is, in fact, so much talent involved and care taken with this show that I can’t help wishing they were telling a different story. There are some shows that mine the details of a particular human frailty to touch something universal. This is not one of those shows. It’s an entertaining hour and change about people with the benefits of wealth and education who seek relationships that make them miserable. There are certainly many people like that in New York and this show may very well be a good date play – there’s nothing like seeing how bad it could be to make you feel good about where you are. But why spend so much energy on a show that will leave your mind like a wave on the sand? Mr. Brooks’ previous productions of No Child…and Thom Pain (based on nothing) proved he is a gifted interpreter of solo performances and Mr. Braly is an evocative writer/performer. I hope the partnership continues and for its next story seeks a subject relevant to more than just Mr. Braly’s peers.

The Deep End Productions presents
James Braly’s
Life in a Marital Institution
June 26-August 31, 2008
Soho Playhouse

Tickets are $40-55. To purchase tickets, call the Soho Playhouse at 212-691-1555, or visit For more information visit

The Soho Playhouse | 15 Vandam St between 6th Ave & Varick | Manhattan.

1 comment:

Billychic said...

Fabulous review - love the commentary on the theatre-goer and the target audience's (or lack thereof) reaction.

Kudos for finding appreciation for the work despite its theme/story being not your cup of tea.

~ d