Poor Marilyn Monroe. Dead more than 50 years, she still has so much to live up to as the world’s love goddess, icon and cautionary tale. Many efforts have been made to capture her essence, to expose the real woman behind the legend. A quite successful one was achieved with the 2011 film My Week with Marilyn starring a surprisingly effective Michelle Williams.
Now the Macha Theatre in West Hollywood is taking on the task of conquering Mount Marilyn in Willard Manus and Odalys Nanin’s Marilyn – My Secret. Set on what one presumes is the eve of her death, it’s a reminiscence delivered by the woman herself, who describes major events in her life as well as her sexuality and her feelings about topics as far-ranging as Broadway and the Cold War.
Incidents in the Monroe canon are enacted in detail and spiced up with simulated sex. Among these are her conquests, both male and female; her simultaneous disgust with and irresistible attraction to Hollywood; her frustration at being unable to grow as an actress; her famous failed marriages; and, of course, her trysts with the Kennedy brothers, all accompanied by the requisite pill-popping and swigs of booze.
The action is punctuated by songs from the Monroe repertoire, including “Diamonds Are a Girl’s Best Friend” and “That Old Black Magic.” Unfortunately, these songs – some performed in their entirety – only serve to pad the running time and point up how slim the material is. Original songs that enhanced or complemented the story would have been a big plus.
It’s a familiar compendium of the Monroe legend – attempting to decipher her irresistible sexuality while simultaneously painting a portrait of her as a woman with far more profound thoughts and aspirations than the public would allow her to have. The title of the piece is really a misnomer – anyone with even a passing knowledge of her history will know most of the information imparted here.
Star Kelly Mullis is bubbly fun as the “boop boop da boop” Monroe, but when the story lurches into melodrama, the baby talk voice becomes risible. And it isn’t helped by the insertion of a 15-minute intermission a mere 20 minutes before the conclusion of this 80-minute show, stalling whatever forward momentum might have been created.
Monique Marisse Lukens is appropriately hammy as the two domineering women in Monroe’s life, acting coaches Natasha Lytess and Paula Strasberg. Katarina Radivojevic is an oddly exotic and accented St. Cyr, who was born in Minneapolis, and her striptease also goes on a bit too long. Rounding out the cast is Jamie German as a one-dimensional Bobby Kennedy.
Nanin’s direction is fine. Staging consists of a daybed, a dressing table and a huge screen in the center, projecting images cued by the star’s monologue.
Marilyn – My Secret plays Fridays and Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 3 and 7 p.m. at the Macha Theatre, 1107 Kings Road, West Hollywood. Reservations can be made here or by calling (323) 960-7862.
Photo: Walter Tabayoyong