A World Premiere is always exciting.
caryn desai (sic) is an artistic director I have admired for years. Internationl City Theare's gorgeous space is an important adjunct to the big guys in Los Angeles.
|Brian Rohan, Alisha Soper. Laura Gardner
Photo by Paul Kennedy
Luke Yankee directs his own play "Marilyn, Mom and Me." A writer directing his own work is an idea that I resist. This is an autobiographical story. a personal memoir Yankee says is mostly true.. My personal bias notwithstanding, I find it an interesting piece of theatre even as directed by the author.
Yankee's premise turns on his sainted mother, actress, Eileen Heckart and her friendship with the mysterious blonde: Marilyn Monroe.
In the 1956 film version of William Inge's "Bus Stop," Yankee's mom, Eileen (crusty Laura Gardner) plays Vera, a waitress. Marilyn (Very Marilyn! Alisha Soper) as Cherie is a singer in the joint.. How actors unite to create the illusion of any story is a challenge. As Yankee brings it to life, we begin as Luke (Brian Rohan) slips in the back door, so to speak, with a goal to record his mom's personal memories of Marilyn. Reluctantly, Eileen warms to the idea that everyone has begged her to share for years.
Luke presents his story: sharing the love and conflicts of a gay son and his troubled mom as the truth unfolds.
The structure of the piece plays out in a mostly presentational way. We are greeted by an essentially bare stage with levels that conceal props in little cubbies. A clever devise. A couple of bent wood chairs and huge projections upstage delineate where each scene takes place. This device puts the weight of the show on the shoulders of the actors. Mostly, they succeed.
With the actors, it's a mixed bag. As Luke, Rohan's performance is all acting. It falters with the challenge of presenting his character at different ages. This is a difficult chore for anyone.. as cute as a grown man in jammies to depict his very early age.. he's still a really big guy in jammies acting like a child. In one scene after watching Luke in a production of Cameot, Eileen lays her copious notes on the young actor. It is devastating and uncomfortable. Herckart was a tough broad.
As Eileen, Ms Gardner plays it close to her vest with strong personal moments as we anxiously anticipate the arrival of 'Her!" "They all want to know about Her," says Eileen.. Make no mistake when SHE arrives, though I might quibble with Ms Soper's Marilyn voice a little bit, her Marilyn is a gorgeous ringer for the "most beautiful woman in the world.."
The bond between Eileen and Marilyn takes its time and the connection becomes genuine.
I encourage you to travel to Long Beach to see this play... However, I must mention that the title, "Marilyn, Mom and Me" emerges toward the end of the show. Just when I thought the performance was over, It was not. Yankee presents Luke in a denouement a beat or two too long. To discuss it would be a spoiler and though disappointing to me, the audience stood to applaud Yankee's unique memoir.
Plan a day in Long Beach. check for blocked streets and construction!! Skip Islands for a meal!
The supporting cast, doubling is okay. The audience is called upon to do some of the work. Kim DeShazo's costumes for Marilyn are spectacular.
Marilyn Monroe: Alisha Soper
Eileen Heckart: Laura Gardner *
Luke: Brian Rohan *
Ella Fitzgerald/ Rosetta/ Paula Strasberg: Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield *
Joshua Logan and others: Noah Wagner
The creative team for Marilyn, Mom & Me includes set designer Dan Volonte, lighting designer Donna Ruzika, costume designer Kim DeShazo, sound designer Dave Mickey and prop designer Patty Briles. Casting is by Michael Donovan, CSA and Richie Ferris, CSA. The production stage manager is Don Hill.
MARILYN, MOM AND ME
Written and directed by Luke Santee
Marilyn, Mom & Me runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., February 16 through March 3.
Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Feb. 14 and Thursday, Feb. 15, both at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets are $49 on
Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except Friday. Feb. 16, opening
night, for which tickets are $55 and include a post show reception), and
$52 at Sunday matinees.