BAILEYS HARBOR, Wis. (WFRV) – Existential autobiography.
Imagine being in the presence of Marilyn Monroe, at the moment of her being overtaken by an overdose of barbiturates, speaking to justify and validate her now-ended life.
The illusion – that of theater – is as if this is happening for real.
A not-living person speaks and tells her story in the here and now.
Few actors in this region have the wherewithal – including performance skills, similar physique, determination, stamina and intellectual/emotional dynamism, along with supportive collaborators – to take on such a role.
And it’s being done by a little entity called Rogue Theater, basically a husband and wife and friends.
Lola DeVillers’ portrait of Marilyn Monroe (June 1, 1926-Aug. 4, 1962) is a terrific piece of theatricality, especially done on a spare stage in spare costuming – barefoot in snow-white silken dressing gown and negligee – with the audience near at hand.
Stuart Champeau is director for his wife in this remarkable project. He manipulates the lights and sound while adding mystical voices.
Keri Grimsley manages a message board that Marilyn Monroe sees while voicing some eerie beings in Marilyn Monroe’s giant collage of a life.
Playwright Rosary Hartel O’Neill’s drama touches on numerous known elements in Marilyn Monroe’s life and adds a marvelous what-if for exploring one of the most intriguing women of the 20th century.
The premise is Marilyn Monroe can make her case to qualify for heaven.
The play opens with Lola DeVillers, lying with her back to the audience in the fetal position. She bolts upward and says, “Did I do myself in? Take too many pills?”
The disembodied Marilyn Monroe sees herself and eventually says, “I’m a brain and eyes. I have no body.”
Soon, her agent connects with her by voice from the beyond. She must audition to get through the Golden Gates. “Complex lives need a final review,” she is told.
The qualifications: She must pass an audition – act a scene, sing a song and be interviewed.
Marilyn Monroe meets again – sometimes becomes by entering their body – persons by one name only:
+ Joe. That would be Joe DiMaggio, a husband. The baseball legend.
+ Arthur. That’s Arthur Miller, another husband. The revered playwright.
+ Stanislavsky. That’s Konstantin Stanislavsky, an icon in the how-to of acting in a special way.
+ Mama. Her mother.
+ Norma Jean. Her other self.
+ Clark. From her final movie, “The Misfits,” the wreckage of Clark Gable.
While in the persona of Joe DiMaggio, Marilyn Monroe is told, “I am one window in your house. You have a lot of windows.”
This play looks through the windows one after another.
Viewed in one window is a being who says she aspired to be recognized beyond her image as the epitome of sensuality – for acting in the plays of Anton Chekov, Henrik Ibsen and Somerset Maugham. She regrets she has “nothing to show for my real talent.”
Another window: “I cheated.” A laundry list of famous lovers is listed.
Other windows: Reading poems of Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson and W.H. Auden – all about death. (Side note: A college paper I chose to write was, “The Old English, Middle English and Icelandic Influences on the Work of W.H. Auden.”)
Through all this Lola DeVillers is operating on all cylinders.
Imagine the power in the room as Marilyn Monroe considers her indiscretions, the babies she avoided and the ones she lost but wanted.
She also is called upon to peer into other parts of her soul. A voice asks, “Why did you want to act? Prove you reached for love and knowledge.”
Along the way, Marilyn Monroe sees her body being discovered, the attempts to resuscitate her, herself on a gurney, herself in the coffin.
Haunting turmoil rolls and rolls.
It’s all fascinating.
The performance is total commitment. Mighty impressive.
Running time: One hour, 15 minutes (no intermission)
Remaining performances: Baileys Harbor Town Hall: 7 p.m. Oct 8, 2 p.m. Oct. 9; Door County Fire Company, Sturgeon Bay: 7 p.m. Oct. 21-22, 2 p.m. Oct. 23
Creative: Playwright: Rosary Hartel O’Neill; director – Stuart Champeau; sound and lights – Stuart Champeau; marquee operator – Keri Grimsley
Marilyn Monroe: Lola DeVillers
Agent/voices – Stuart Champeau
Voices – Keri Grimsley
NEXT: Christmas show TBA, Dec. 9-10.
THE VENUE: Baileys Harbor Town Hall auditorium is located in the Baileys Harbor Town Hall-McArdle Library building, 2392 County F, Baileys Harbor. Built in the 1930s, the building is on the National Register of Historic Places. The multipurpose auditorium includes a stage on its south side. The proscenium stage is raised three feet above the main floor, which is of light hardwood akin to wood found on a bowling alley. The stage is approximately 20 by 10 feet. Yellow/gold stage curtains fringe the performance space, with dark laminate wood serving as the stage’s lower facing. At the rear of the stage in each corner are two dark brown doors that appear to be of the building’s vintage. On the ceiling is a roll-up screen for film/slide presentations, with its cord hanging over the stage. For “Marilyn/God,” seating is on folding or straight-back movable chairs.