The Marilyn Monroe most people know is her star persona: A ditzy blonde who oozed sexuality and was both a threat and revelation to the conservative Fifties. But the real Marilyn, as depicted in various biographies and here in Jim Tommaney's intriguing Final Hours of Norma Jeane, was a woman who did indeed have thoughts and ambitions of her own and fought to be respected as an actress and a person.
This play, which chronicles what could have been the final 90 minutes of her life (controversy cloaks the elusive truth), deftly balances her battle for respect and integrity with the tragic circumstances surrounding her death. The remnants of stardom are here as well, with references to Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, Peter Lawford, Frank Sinatra, and "Jack" in the White House, who on this August evening in 1962 has her under house arrest in Beverly Hills. Marilyn (real name: Norma Jeane Mortenson) is joined by two government agents named Rick and Lars, each of whom enjoys his assignations with the promiscuous starlet.
Final Hours of Norma Jeane
the Main Street Playhouse, 6766 Main St, Miami Lakes
Written and directed by Jim Tommaney. With Kirsten Upchurch, Michael Gavino, and Toby Morris. Presented through December 19 by EDGE Theatre. 954-733-8735.
As succinct and persuasive as Tommaney's writing is (his explanation of Marilyn's death will certainly take many by surprise), this bare-bones production at EDGE Theatre's wonderful new location in Miami Lakes is highlighted by Kirsten Upchurch's superb interpretation of Marilyn. Her walk, talk, and mannerisms embody the real Marilyn with grace and delicacy, while not forsaking the darker side that Marilyn so skillfully kept hidden.
More than 40 years after her death, Marilyn Monroe is still revered as a cultural icon. Will we ever know what really happened the night she died? It's doubtful. But it's a lot of fun to watch this production take a crack at it.