Author: Leslie Bramm
Description: A father tries to mold his gay son, into the solider he failed to become; it kills him.
First Produced: 2007
Date Added: 6/15/2011
Content Advisory: NA
Keywords: Drama · Coming of Age · Gay and Lesbian · Death and the Afterlife · Many Locations · Characters are Mostly Married/With Families · Anti-War · Naturalism/Realism · Mostly Male Characters · Small Cast Size
2 Acts, 90 Minutes
1 Female, 3 Males
NOTE: Marvelous is fully protected by copyright law and is subject to royalty. All inquiries concerning production, publication, reprinting or use of this play in any form should be addressed to Rochelle at email@example.com.
Original Production Information
Marvelous was first presented by Three Crows Theatre, as part of the New York International Fringe Festival in 2007 at The New School for Drama , with the following cast and credits:
Marvelous: Paul Hufker
Peter McNaughtin: Jack Halpin
Bobbie Ross-McNaughtin: Sara Thigpen
Directed by: Pamela S. Butler
Stage Manager: Amy Upham
Production Assistant: Samantha Shechtman
Review by Martin Denton
The playwright (Leslie Bramm), the director (Pamela Butler), the leading man (Jack Halpin), and the leading lady (Sara Thigpen) of Marvelous Shrine are all FringeNYC vets, many times over each; they're all at peak form in this gripping, moving new play about family, values, and family values in contemporary America. But it was the newcomer in the company—a remarkable young actor named Paul Hufker from St. Louis—who really riveted my attention. See this play because it's pertinent and smart; see it because it showcases some of indie theater's finest talents, or see it to catch a hot new performer on his way up: just see it.
Marvelous Shrine takes place somewhere in America in 1994. Peter McNaughtin is a Chief Petty Officer in the U.S. Coast Guard, separated from his wife Bobbie, a socialite/charity worker. Their only son, Peter, Jr. (just "Junior" to his Dad; "Marvelous" to his Mom), is 17 and in a heap of trouble. He's facing expulsion from school on the eve of a championship race that could bring him a college scholarship; he's also just announced that he wants to have a sex change operation. Mom tolerates and coddles him as she organizes a MADD charity event whilst sipping vodka martinis; Dad offers a brand of tough love, ordering Junior to shape up while building him a shrine, comprised of old running trophies and other memorabilia, atop the grill in the backyard.
Junior, it would seem, has no choice but to act out. What's really going on with this passionate young man is sexual confusion (he's pretty sure he's gay) and a desire to figure out what he really wants from life (probably a career in music: he's rooted in the grunge rock movement, especially the works of Kurt Cobain and Courtney Love). When Cobain kills himself, Junior moves into a new place; events push forward irrevocably with a frightening assist from (well-meaning?) Dad. Tragedy, in the midst of aggressive satire, ensues.
Bramm deftly balances a deeply-felt family drama with significant political content here: Marvelous Shrine is as much about the dissolution of a traditional American family as it is about the recent apparent derailment of the American Dream. The strong, believable characters that Bramm and his collaborators create here make the rotten core that Bramm exposes really sting, really sear. When Thigpen's Bobbie McNaughtin realizes that she has lost her son, at least figuratively, to an ideal that she never believed in and is pretty sure doesn't even exist, her pain is palpable. When Halpin's C.P.O. McNaughtin weighs the loss of a son with honor against the absence of a son forever, it's impossible not to experience at least a tug on the heart.
But it's in Hufker's mercurial, questing, damaged Marvelous that the soul of this play resides. He captures the angst of youth, sure; but what he also shows us here, via Bramm's poetic speeches, is the turmoil of a genuinely lost generation.
Butler's direction serves this resonant play well. A bit of tightening might be in order; but this play deserves a life after FringeNYC and I hope that it gets one.
reviewed at the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival
Excerpt from Marvelous
So, this guy goes in to see his shrink. The shrink asks him, what’s the matter, and the guys says, “I’m a corpse,” The shrink tells him, “You can’t be a corpse. You’re walking and talking.” Guy says, “Nope. I’m a corpse.” The shrink tries every logical way to convince his patient that he’s not dead. Walking, talking, sleeping, eating. The shrink confronts him with the facts. With what’s right in front of his face. Still the guy says, “I’m dead. I’m a corpse.” Finally the shrink says; “Ah ha! Do corpses bleed?” The guy says, “Of course a corpse can’t bleed.” So, in his frustration the shrink grabs a pin and pricks the guys finger. Blood starts pouring out and the shrink says; “Look, look at the blood.” The guy responds; “Wow, I guess corpses do bleed.” .”…Conundrum aside, none of this changes the fact that I’m dead.