LIFE IN A MARITAL INSTITUTION is a look inside the manic marriage of opposites, from the winning point of view of the husband, the "gaspingly funny" (Variety), "never less than excellent" (New York Times) writer of the hit Off-Broadway show of the same name.
The marriage memoir—from Elizabeth Gilbert's Committed to Isabel Gillies's It Happens Every Day —has been a balm to beleaguered wives everywhere. But who speaks for the husbands--and tells you what you never get to hear from your girlfriends? In this sharp, funny, poignant glimpse into a very unusual marriage, sensitive, decent, shell-shocked James Braly earns the job. His marriage to a woman who is so bewitching--that at their very first meeting she corrects the handwriting he uses to write her prized name and number on a slip of paper—is by turns fascinating and casually shocking. Thus begins a romance that includes progressive adventures in extended breastfeeding, co-sleeping, even fine dining (dinner parties whose guests include a connoisseur of human placenta: "pan roasted...in cumin").
The scenes from Braly's marriage are wrapped around the story that explains why someone chooses such a partnership to begin with: a colorful, kooky family that includes a fierce bomber pilot dad, a debutante heiress mom, and a delightfully druggy sister dying in a Houston hospice, and who'd rather be dead than married to James's wife. In other words, love is what love was--only darkly hilarious.
Braly's one-man show of the same name is currently touring the country, produced by Meredith Vieira Productions, which is developing the show for television.
In this spirited outpouring of youthful vitriol, former New York copywriter and performance monologuist Braly offers an aggrieved and hilarious account of his long courtship and marriage to "Jane" (also occasionally referred to as "Anne"), with whom he spent much of the next 20 years in couples counseling. A gorgeous, Germanic, world-traveled young scholarship student he met while attending Columbia College, Jane was frank, confident, unable to dissemble about her feelings, comfortable with breast-feeding their two sons well into grade-school age, and clearly the one who "wore the pants" in the relationship, setting off a spiraling of "dark, shameful rage" for Braly. He in turn was long entangled in the dramas of his extended dysfunctional family, and in his self-excoriating narrative, he has reconciled himself to the fact that he and Jane were locked in the painful writhings needed to "finish the unfinished business of growing up," as the therapists say. Running beneath the absurdity of the couple's combative behavior is the sad, slow dying of Braly's older sister, Kate, from breast cancer; summoned down to her deathbed in Houston, Braly had to appease the tempestuous personalities of the various gathered family members, from his multimarried mother with her new facelift to his now wheelchair-bound war hero father who was once General Eisenhower's personal pilot. Braly faces down harrowing emotional hurdles with a gritty, lip-curling humor.