Marilyn, Pursued By A Bear – a new play by Nicole Neely, blending Marilyn’s life story with Shakespeare’s A Winter’s Tale – is being staged at the Bath House Cultural Center as part of the 21st Festival of Independent Theatres in Dallas, Martha Heinberg reports for TheaterJones.
“Marilyn Monroe wakes up in a mental institution, where she’s been taken by her third husband. The Hollywood icon is back in the hospital because she’s overdosed again.
In Shakespeare’s The Winter’s Tale, a jealous duke casts out his faithful wife and newborn daughter because he thinks she’s an adulteress and the baby is a bastard. At one point, the duke’s man ordered to carry out the cruel errand, is chased by a bear, dropping the baby as he exits. Daughter lives, man devoured offstage. The playwright sees some reflections of the bard’s late romance in the real-life traumas of Norma Jean Baker, the funny, gorgeous daughter and granddaughter of abused and abandoned women.
Here, we see Marilyn (slight, pretty CC Weatherly in platinum wig and blue scrubs) haunted by visions of her dead grandmother (loving, touching Sally Soldo) and her mother Gladys (sharp-featured, defensive Stephany Cambra), trying to battle her way out of a drug fog on an empty stage with blue lighting and three white blocks as props. A chorus of four characters in black, representing everything from accusing orderlies to the dark bear of death (svelte Olivia Cinquepalmi in a clingy satin gown), pursue the anguished actress as she struggles to defend herself against false accusations.
The tone of the play shifts from a sense of pity for the embattled heroine shrinking from a menacing animal growl in the distance to the overly melodramatic … The action swirls and the bear growls, but unlike the Shakespearean romance, there is no magical ending in this evocative, sad remembrance of a woman. We are, however, left with a sense that ‘like mother, like daughter,’ might also mean that these poor women are also forgiving and supporting, despite the husbands, doctors and fathers who left them behind.”