Marriage: A Work in Progress is a two-person improv show made up of an improvised stream-of-consciousness collection of miniature narratives that take a comical look at the quirky dynamics in a marital relationship.
The performers — Lauren Katz and Joey Slotnick — are charismatic and adept at finding a rhythm to improv’s greatest prerogative: the ability to build on a simple premise by indirectly saying “Yes, and...”. But the show might not be wholly captivating to audiences unfamiliar with the mechanics of improv theater. Much of Marriage focuses on physical comedy as the performers mime mundane domestic tasks such as making pizza, stringing the lights on a Christmas tree and playing chess. As each scene melds seamlessly with the last without fanfare or resolution, it seems that a great deal of concentration is needed to simply translate what they were doing next instead of appreciating why it's happening.
The duo successfully captures the nuanced nitpicking so many neurotic couples are guilty of; and there is joy to be derived from watching the gears turn behind two talented performers who are constantly trying to figure out where the other is going and how to react appropriately, which feels much like a real marriage. During the opening-night show, they would often break character to casually discuss where the scene was going. Despite breaking the fourth wall in some ways, this leads audiences to enjoy the process more than the result. That’s part of the fun of improv — the feeling that you’re just as up to speed on the events unfolding on stage as the performers are. If you're looking for a cohesive story with clear development, I wouldn't recommend the show. Marriage does have structure, however, as it's loosely encased in three acts, respectively titled Tumbling, Repetition and Playing, all of which seem to have little effect on the performers’ direction.
This show is a challenge to keep up with, but for fans of improv, is ultimately worth considering.