What is there left to be said about Marilyn Monroe?
Almost 60 years after her death from a drug overdose at the age of 36, the Hollywood sex goddess still is a subject of fascination for us. Particularly for those who were alive while she was, which happens to also be the primary audience of Boca Stage.
So one can understand why the company chose to produce Elton Townend Jones’s one-woman show, The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe, even if it offers little if anything new about the actress and plays like a Wikipedia recitation.
Jones apparently assumes we are up on our Monroe lore, for he has her name-drop Joe, Arthur, Lee, Tony and Larry among others. (That’s DiMaggio, Miller, Strasberg, Curtis and Olivier for the uninitiated.) It is hard to imagine what younger audience members make of these elliptical references, but they will probably leave after the show’s intermissionless 75 minutes unaware of the context of many of the evening’s anecdotes.
Leah Sessa makes a passable Monroe. She certainly has the breathy vocal delivery down cold and even sort of looks the part, thanks chiefly to the large blond wig whose design is credited to Slow Burn Theatre’s Patrick Fitzwater.
To state the obvious, The Unremarkable Death of Marilyn Monroe is an unremarkable theatrical exercise, with most of the shortcomings of one-person shows. As the play begins, Marilyn wakes up in a drug-induced haze and begins to meander through the events of her life. But why she is reciting all this and who exactly she is addressing is never made clear. A telephone – the saving grace of many a solo show – occasionally rings, even though the receiver is off the hook.
Perhaps, taking a clue from the show’s title, Marilyn is already dead as the play begins and she is defending her life to some unseen guardian of the pearly gates. Or perhaps I am attempting to impose some coherence on a work which is short in that department.
Keith Garsson directs the production with the usual artifice of one-person shows, moving Sessa about the wide stage with little motivation other than visual variety and going toward the next lighting cue. The lighting is designed by Ardean Landuis, the set by Dustin Hamilton and the costumes by Alberto Arroyo, all of whom should be held blameless.
THE UNREMARKABLE DEATH OF MARILYN MONROE. Boca Stage, 3333 N. Federal Highway, Boca Raton. Through Sunday, Dec. 19. $45-$50. 561-447-8829.