Frank Sinatra music plays over the speakers. A single pale blue velvet upholstered chair sits centre stage, accompanied by a side table with a goblet of water. A man in a suit and bow tie (David Roche, also assistant to the producer) walks to the bottom of the staircase. And then she appears at the top of the stairs – bright, blonde and sparkly, dressed in white and ivory.
What if Marilyn Monroe came back to tell us her story, in her own words?
This is exactly what actor/playwright Nonnie Griffin does in her one-woman show Marilyn – After. Produced by Crazy Folk Productions and Fern Densem, and directed by Peggy Mahon, the show opened to a full house in the Tallulah’s Cabaret space at Buddies in Bad Times Theatre last night.
Monroe, who adored older people and never had a chance to grow old herself, takes the stage as an older version of herself to share stories of her life: her personal history and milestone moments, and her thoughts and emotional responses as the events of her life unfold. From her heart-wrenching childhood of living in aunts’ homes, in an orphanage and various foster homes; to struggling with extreme sexism and sexual harassment to establish a career in Hollywood; to her rocky marriages and relationships with lovers, film successes, and an untimely and suspicious death at 36, Marilyn – After is more than a mere history of an icon.
Channeling Monroe with every gesture, facial expression and intonation, Griffin gives a moving and entertaining performance. A high school drop-out, but a fierce reader, and smarter than she was ever given credit for, Monroe was deeply insecure about her talent – even as she showed great professional chutzpah in the face of industry bastards. As Griffin evokes both the star and the woman, we see a Marilyn who wanted more than a stellar career as an actress – we see a woman who wanted to be loved, respected and find family. No wonder Monroe is such a huge gay icon – and Tallulah’s is the perfect space for this show.
Marilyn – After is a poignant, funny and engaging piece of first-person storytelling, told with truthfulness, respect and love by the remarkable Nonnie Griffin.
Marilyn – After runs Friday, Oct 10 – Sunday, Oct 12 and Thursday, Oct 16 – Sunday, Oct 19 (no shows Mon, Oct 13 – Wed, Oct 15) – weeknights at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2:30 p.m. You can purchase advance tickets online at Buddies or by calling 416-975-8555.
Get yourself out to Buddies and see this show – please note the early curtain time for weeknight performances. In the meantime, take a look at the Globe and Mail video piece on the show.