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Braly’s ‘Life in a Marital Institution’BY: Jackie Atkins 07.10.2011
“Would you be married to this woman?” James Braly moans about his wife in this monologue on marriage. Better you should ask: Would anyone be married to him?
Life in a Marital Institution. Written and performed by James Braly; directed by Hal Brooks. Through July 16, 2011 at the Wilma Theater, 265 S. Broad St. (at Spruce). (215) 546-7824 or www.wilmatheater.org.
Take his marriage, pleaseJACKIE ATKINS
“Marriage is a great institution,” said Elizabeth Taylor, who was married seven times. “But who wants to live in an institution?”
James Braly, a motivational speechwriter, tries to unlock the answer to this conundrum in this distracting 90-minute monologue.
As a confirmed fugitive from committed relationships, I may not have been the best possible audience for Braly. But the crowd surrounding me— mostly couples in their late 60s— amounted to a choir listening to a preacher.
Amens came in the form of giggles and applause for Braly’s opening monologue about visiting his sister in an end of care facility. Ordinarily this subject may not be a laughing matter, but Braly seems to find amusement in the weirdest situations.
The audience laughed
When his sister asks him if he’d like to trade places with her, Braly has to pause and think about it. You see, he’s a married man, involved in a living relationship that’s worse than death. The audience couldn’t stop laughing.
Now, I could see where a single gal like me could find this patter mildly funny. But what was this crowd’s problem? They’re married and they think they’re in a fate worse than death? That’s why I’m not married!
Basically, Life in a Marital Institution is an upscale progressive version of the old Henny Youngman “Take my wife, please” routine.
The difference lies in the presenter’s interpretation of marriage. Youngman never contemplated divorce as an answer to his misery, whereas Braly constantly brings up the possibility of this final solution.
It’s her fault
In his opening prologue Braly observes wryly that many people want to know if he’s still married. “Well, if you were married to Susan,” he replies rhetorically, “would you still be?”
In between Braly’s deathbed scenes at his sister’s hospice, we learn that he met his wife in a coffee house while he was writing a poem about his recent breakup. She took it from his hands and started correcting it. Ah, love at first bite.
Afterwards, Braly takes us through their ten-year courtship, which includes fantasies about a French acquaintance the two of them befriended on a trip to Europe and a near sexual encounter with the same acquaintance on Christmas Eve.
Next we deal with the birth of their two sons. Here’s where things get interesting, because we now learn that Susan is still nursing the kids (ages three and six) because she thinks it’s therapeutic.
Braly spends the last 14 minutes brawling on and on about his new neighbors in upstate New York (New Harlem Ville) and their fondness for eating their children’s placentas. We even get recipes for this gourmet treat.
“Would you be married to this woman?” Braly moans. Better you should ask: Would anyone be married to him?
In this day and age, when gay people are clamoring for marriage and straight people are clamoring to get out, Braly’s frank and humorous takes on the hard work and sacrifices involved in making a marriage work should be a required course before anyone says, “I do.”
As for me, it was just amusing to see all the fun I’m missing.♦
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