Marilyn Monroe: Wouldn't It Be Fascinating
nytheatre.com review by Edward Elefterion
August 15, 2010
The blurb for Marilyn Monroe: wouldn't it be fascinating says "Follow baseball great Joe DiMaggio and glamorous Marilyn Monroe through a Butoh and Noh influenced sound and video dreamscape as they fall out of love and pursue their own dream-lovers while on honeymoon in Tokyo." This blurb is the most coherent thing about the show.
I could identify the characters of DiMaggio and Monroe thanks to the baseball uniform and the blond wig, but there was not a shred of Butoh or Noh...two forms of theatre that I have studied extensively in my 20 years as a theatre practitioner. As for "fall out of love" and "dream-lovers" and even "honeymoon"...let's just say I didn't get any of that. What I did get was that the writer-director-designer Erik Zambrano is interested in using video (but to what end?), slow entrances/exits (hardly exclusive to Noh, by the way), and dreamscapes (a program note mentions the "collective unconscious" and "fragmented modern dreams").
The thing about the collective unconscious is that it's unconscious, that is, beyond (or below) awareness. It's not enough to just "stage" it, if that were even possible. In order to make an audience aware of it, one would have to connect it to something, ground it, give it something to push up against. Otherwise, all you get it is a free-floating hodgepodge of images and sounds without any context. And because they refer to nothing, they mean nothing. This idea of theatre as collective dream is hardly new. Strindberg focused on it for the last few decades of his life and became a master of the form mostly because he understood the necessity of structure, something that this production sorely lacks.
The performers Lacy Warner, Brendan Hunt, and Azumi Fukumura are certainly game, though. Brian Walters is especially enthusiastic as the Japanese TV Host. I wish the rest of the production had his kind of contagious energy. He was only called upon sparingly but I found myself looking forward to his next appearance.
Technically, the production is a bit of a mess. The onstage tech table actually created most of the problems since the vast majority of the lighting cues consist of a clip light turned on and off from the table. Strangely, the clip light provided no illumination as it was washed out by other light sources, and only served to call attention to the person turning it on and off. The ubiquitous tech-table light, however, provided lots of illumination as it nearly blinded some of the audience members in the first row, one of whom watched the entire performance from behind her program which she held up as a shield against the offending glare. A lower wattage bulb and a properly attached gel could easily solve the problem.
The enormous video collage that serves as the backdrop for the performance was equally distracting as the images on it shifted from a forest at night to the streets of Tokyo to extreme close-ups of the actors in shadowy light. I chalked it up to more collective-unconscious (now conscious) fragmented modern dreaming, but couldn't make heads or tails out of any of it.