Thursday, February 11, 2010

Dreams Answered: Marilyn at MOCA

"Dreaming about being an actress, is more exciting then being one." --MM

Last night Marilyn, Forever Blonde made its Jacksonville debut. I’d interviewed the lead, actress, Sunny Thompson for EU, and hearing her talk about playing Marilyn, and the steps she’d taken to inhabit the character really roused my curiousity.

But in truth, I would’ve gone to see the play anyway. It’s not that I am a huge Marilyn Monroe fan, rather, I am fascinated by the phenomenon that she and celebrities like her represent. Especially in light of a recent viewing of This Is It. Watching Michael Jackson work through his rehearsals, interact with members of the troupe and production team, and the props scheduled for the tour gives the viewer a glimpse into the way his mind works, and, the way the MJ public persona was always in place. Even when planning his interaction with the audience, those same gestures are again found in his semi-private interactions with his crew.

So too, in Forever Blonde, does the audience see a Marilyn that is both real and artifice; a self-made, deliberate, creature and a real person with deep flaws. Sunny Thompson bears a striking resemblance to Monroe, but what really brings Marilyn to life is the voice…from her first utterances on her early days in Hollywood to a drunken semi-rage against her final ex-husband and her failure to succeed as a “serious” actress, the voice carries the weight of one-thousand pop culture memories.

Marilyn as an icon has completely eclipsed Marilyn as a person. And while there is the endless speculation of her influence as a cultural touchstone and symbol, to get a glimpse behind her veil of celebrity of enlightening and frustrating. Thompson so completely inhabits the role of Monroe there is a hallucinatory feeling of being in two places at once: the present, where one belongs, and Marilyn’s final photo shoot.

Ultimately though Forever Blonde invites speculation and navel gazing about a celebrity obsessed culture, it is a reminder that the famous, no matter how asisine and absurd are people too. Sometimes {just sometimes} they deserve our compassion.

Marilyn, Forever Blonde plays through March 7 at MOCA, the exhibit it accompanies, Life as Legend, Marilyn Monroe runs through April 4.


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