Thursday, April 11, 2013

Marilyn - My Secret by Willard Manus and Odalys Nanin

Kelly Mullis

By Joe Straw

Death comes
on baby feet,
soft pads to
tugs on
clinging white slips,
not seeing
parting red lips
not hearing
unexpected whispers,
and secret, tender pleads,
Death comes
on tiny moving hips
in increments,
to you,
and gone,
that’s how it comes.

“There are no secrets in Hollywood.  Everyone knows all the nasty details but they are simply not sharing.” – Narrator

Marilyn has a big secret.

Kelly Mullis does more than an impersonation of Marilyn Monroe. She is an actress of unquestionable skills and those skills are undeniable when you hear the voice and watch her move across the stage.

But when she came out for the curtain call, her eyes opened wide and slightly sad in that moment, she conveys that “things” did not go well this night.  It was here that I thought there was more to this actress than meets the eye and I was delighted to see this.  No, delighted is an understatement. (More on this later.)

Macha Theatre/Films presents Marilyn - My Secret written by Willard Manus and Odalys Nanin, produced and directed by Odalys Nanin.

The play takes place after the death of Marilyn Monroe so we venture in the non-linear route of specific points in her life.  I personally prefer linear with a beginning, middle and end.  But in this play, Marilyn is dead, and who knows what happens after you die. Still Ms. Nanin chose a different perspective, which works effectively.

And here is where the secret comes in.  Marilyn is dead.  The ingress into her French doors allows her to examine her ruination.  But how?  And why did this happen?

Projected, downstage center, the photograph of Marilyn has her lying face down in bed.  Death could not have had a better specimen. There were pills on her nightstand, and her left hand is reaching for what? Who better to explain than the spirit of Marilyn Monroe than the apparition still residing in her Brentwood home and telling us about it.  

Possibly my imagination but I thought I heard a flush of sound, a maddening crowd, waiting in anticipation.  “Marilyn…” starts off with the Happy Birthday song to President John F. Kennedy and a picture is projected of her and Kennedy facing forward. 

Is this the secret, the reason for her demise?

Marilyn speaks fondly about her relationship with Arthur Miller, her conversion to Judaism.  Certainly, this is not the reason she was found face down, in her bed.  

“I had to suck those c*cks to get all those parts.” – Marilyn

Really?  Unquestionably not enough of a tragedy for life’s short end and, to put it bluntly, it’s not really a secret.

The play takes us to Columbia Studios where she is being taught by Natasha Lytess (Monique Marissa Lukens) on how to be a woman and how to speak like a woman.  And in the process Lytess couldn’t keep her hands off of Marilyn.  Natasha quits her job and gives six years of her life to Marilyn and then Marilyn tosses her out, into the streets.

This leads Marilyn to sing Nobody Loves Me. Odd, but not enough to throw her face down on the bed.

Marilyn then falls in love with Joe DiMaggio and shares her love for Italians and Italian food.  On the set she falls for another Italian, Yves Montand, masquerading as a Frenchman.

Yes, Yves Montand (in a wanting fatherly figure mode) causes Marilyn to belt out “My Heart Belongs to Daddy”.  Again nicely done. And one questions where her heart actually resides, if with anyone at all.

Still working on her craft Marilyn travels to a nightclub to watch Lili St. Cyr (Katarina Radivojevic) perform a sensuous dance.  But there is something different here, a style, a method, about the way St. Cyr performs that has Marilyn enchanted. (St.Cyr has a video on YouTube and watching this I have to believe Marilyn was an exceptional student.)

But, is this the secret, this relationship that would be responsible for Marilyn's death?


Paula Strasberg (Monique Marissa Lukens) teaches Marilyn how to be a great actress imaging herself as a wave or a rose and while in New York plays out a fantasy of picking up a cowboy (Jamie German) and taking him to bed.

Marilyn - My Secret has a lot of good things going for it.  A lively actress playing Marilyn, some nice songs, and something we really want to see, a secret played out a few feet away from us.

But, the secret was not really the issue in this play, co-written by Odalys Nanin and Willard Manus, with songs.   Instead what we have are really fine moments interrupted by songs. The progression of the play is the tease to the secret that destroys a life, the reason that she is pulled into the vortex whether it is fictionalized or based on fact.  

Odalys Nanin gives us a lot of fantastic moments on stage. However the play needs tightening- a successful cohesion of play and music.  I’ve seen other plays that successfully include music that connect with the dramatic moments (e.g., Sylvia by A.R. Gurney is one).  The conflict must be the motivation for her to break out into song.  It must heighten the moment and tell us where the character is, now on stage. For the character, the song must be the reason. The action is lost if it’s not done just right and finding the reason and the justification is the really tricky part for the actor, director (Nanin) and the writers.  

Kelly Mullis is grand as Marilyn Monroe.  She has a fine voice and is able to replicate some very nice mannerism.  Mullis has a lot of wonderful moments in this play with words. To need and to love are very important actions for Marilyn.  The more she wants the less she gets and that possibly leads her to her demise.

Monique Marissa Lukens plays Natasha Lytess and Paula Strasberg and gives us interesting looks at these two characters.  They are similar in a lot of ways.  I wouldn’t recognize Lukens if I ran into her at the Grove, her eyes hidden behind the very wide and dark sunglasses Strasberg is said to have worn.  

Katarina Radivojevic played Lili St. Cyr and did an outstanding job. I particularly liked the dance behind the screen and the costume.

Jamie German did well as Bobby Kennedy and the cowboy.  If I had my druthers, I would have strengthened his relationship with Marilyn, more intense, and more romantic.  I believe this would have strengthened the relationship and given the audience a little something extra. German was a little too coy for my liking. Still, he did a lot of nice things. 

I love going to the Macha Theatre.  Ms Nanin has turned the theatre into a very nice venue that opens the doors and the secrets of old Hollywood. She also has an eye for talent always having exotic actresses doing marvelous things.

Other important members of the crew are:

Liz Moss – Assistant to the Director
Carey Dunn – Lighting Design, Stage Manager
Walter Tabayoyong - Photography
Nora Feldman - Publicity

Run and take a friend who likes to keep secrets. 

Reservation:  323-960-7862

Extended through May 11, 2013

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