“The Fabulous Miss Marie,” an Ed Bullins’ play directed by Woodie King, Jr., is being featured at the Castillo Theatre, located at 543 West 42nd Street in Manhattan and will run until May 18.
“The Fabulous Miss Marie” stars Drama Desk Award winner Tonya Pinkins, as Miss Marie, a former show girl and Roscoe Orman (Sesame Street), who plays Marie’s husband Bill Horton, a parking valet and womanizer. Together, Marie and Bill are the fun loving 1960s very odd couple who love to drink and throw parties while pretending that everything is wonderful in their lives all the time, despite civil rights about to explode outside their door. Bill and Marie are oblivious to the suffering of others. As long as their shallow little world keeps rolling along, Bill and Marie dance their little jigs and sing their little happy drunken songs living life as one big party.
Marie is no saint either. She has mini affairs with some of the male hangers-on that frequent their home, individuals like Steve (Ugo Chukwu), Art (Ashley C. Turner), Marco (Michael Chenevere), and Bud (G. Alverez Reid). Given Marie’s wandering eye, her stud Art is feeling insecure. He knows he cannot stay at the Horton home forever but for now, it’s a place to crash while he plans his next move. Meanwhile, he keeps himself busy doing little chores, servicing Marie and worrying about whether another stud will cash in on what he has going with Marie.
We discover that Marie lives a delusional tawdry middle class life in LA, dressing in low cut revealing too tight sexy dresses while Bill sees himself as some kind of song and dance man. Bill makes enough money parking cars in Beverly Hills to keep up their shallow lifestyle, which is financially better off than the majority people of color during the 1960s. Bill is a drunk who keeps a white woman, his baby’s mama, on the side. This is a sore spot for Marie who also drinks far too much. Marie had an abortion that left her unable to have children but pretends she is just fine without them. But as long as Bill keeps the money rolling in, Marie is prepared to ignore his affairs, especially since she is having clandestine affairs of her own. Thing is, Bill loves Marie and cannot function without her. He has no intention of ever leaving Marie and their pseudo fabulous life which is packed with faux friends who parade in and out of the Horton home. Part of maintaining their middle class life style is to associate with the type of people who remain just as disconnected, unaware and uncaring about the impending Watts Riot as the Hortons. None of them possess integrity. The Horton’s friends are mostly parasites who leech off them.
The only person who demonstrates any community consciousness or honor is Gaffney portrayed by Beethovan Oden who adds humor as the Dashiki wearing uptight Black militant who tries to convert Art. However, Art wants nothing to do with what Gaffney is selling especially since Gaffney is so rigid he comes off as goofy.
While attractive, Bill Horton is reminiscent of a smarmy snake charmer who even hits on his wife’s niece (Brittany N. Williams) who herself is directionless. Yet both he and Marie have a vulnerability that has some appeal to the viewer. The constant glee that Marie and Bill exhibit is somewhat comical and endearing if not bewildering, as they insist on being what they view as fabulous, irrespective of how garish, and despite what goes on around them. Marie’s girlfriends get indignant when Bill humiliates Marie by dragging his white woman to all the haunts he hangs out with Marie. Yet these same female friends (Toccarra Cash, Aaliyah Habeeb) flirt with each other’s men, including Marie’s boy toys, even sleeping with them.
I am uncertain what message playwright Ed Bullins was attempting to impart via his play “The Fabulous Miss Marie.” Unless he was attempting to show vulnerability, avarice, fragility and hypocrisy as it occasionally lies within human nature regardless of what class system they find themselves in.
If you enjoy light comedy and like a little fun and silliness, “The Fabulous Miss Marie” is the production for you. So, get down to the Castillo Theatre before it ends on May 18.