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The Marriage of Bette and Boo

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joan marcus

Christopher Durang’s vividly grotesque dysfunctional-family opus premiered in 1985, long before the days of Roseanne, The Osbournes, and this year’s awards darling August: Osage County. And in the current Lohan era, the story borders on quaint. The large family of his play is comically crippled by alcoholism, disability, verbal abuse (one woman’s husband refers to her as ”the dumbest white woman alive”), God-fearing sorrow, and multiple DOA babies — which, in several scenes, are dropped to the floor like a sack of potatoes by the disinterested delivering doc. It’s a situation that demands a desperate, demented pitch, which Walter Bobbie’s production sorely lacks.

Tonal inconsistency notwithstanding, Durang’s observations are as acidic as ever. ”I think [God] punishes people in general. For no reason,” says young narrator Matt (Charles Socarides, taking the reins from Durang, who had the role 23 years ago). Performing on David Korins’ delectable lipstick-red portraiture set, many cast members are right on the playwright’s wavelength. There’s ever-versatile Victoria Clark (The Light in the Piazza) as the smile-through-it-all matriarch of the bride’s side. There’s the ever-youthful and always-funny Julie Hagerty as the groom’s dim-bulb mother. And, best of all, there is Kate Jennings Grant as Bette, who deftly blends a daffy, childish naïvete with the gravitas of a world-weary mother. Her scene centering on a late-night phone call to a long-lost pal is a heartbreaker. But for a play with 33 short scenes, at least half of those should linger more fondly in the memory. (Tickets: Roundabouttheatre.org or 212-719-1300) B-

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