This review of Marissa Mulder: Marilyn In Fragments at The Laurie Beechman Theatre was written by Dr. Thomas Robert Stevens and published in Volume X, Issue 6 (2016) of the online edition of Applause! Applause!
Marissa Mulder: Marilyn In Fragments
Written & Performed by Marissa Mulder
Directed by Sondra Lee
Musical Director (at the piano): Jon Weber
The Laurie Beechman Theatre
407 West 42nd Street
New York, New York 10036
Marissa Mulder, who had been taking an acting class with Sondra Lee, reveals she felt "connected to Marilyn, started reading about her life, reading her diaries, loved her vulnerability and wanted to do a show about her." She wrote Marilyn In Fragments, hired Sondra Lee as her director, and Jon Weber as her pianist. The decision was made to include portions of 20 songs and to intersperse them with words spoken or written by Marilyn Monroe herself, to give you some insight into the starlet. The project turned out to be an epic fail. Do not waste your precious time going down to see this show! I found it to be a soulless, tedious and uninspiring work of performance art. My guest fell asleep and didn't wake up until the polite applause that was provided to the appreciative, attractive performer at the end of the show. The material was also crass at times, such as when Marissa, as Marilyn, said "Don't ever fall in love with a politician because when they fuck you - they fuck you!" What is that supposed to mean? Is it a vague reference to the conspiracy theory that Marilyn was murdered by friends of President John F. Kennedy and his brother Robert? Instead, Marissa Mulder twice asked what Alanis Morissette meant when she sang, "I have one hand in my pocket."
The songs selected have little to do with the quotations recited during the show. Some of those self-revelations included the following: "I am my thoughts - worthless and a fraud." "I hurt myself today to see if I still feel." "Everyone goes away in the end." "I am selfish, inpatient and a little insecure." "Norma Jean is gone." "Dogs never bite me - only humans." "I don't care if I sing off key. I find myself in my melodies." "The only thing I wanted to be was a great actress." There is no one I trust." "Better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring." "My body is my body - every part of it." "I don't mind making jokes, but I don't want to feel like one." "If you can make a girl laugh, you can make her do anything." and "If you give a girl the right pair of shoes, she can conquer the world." There was no range in Marissa Mulder's acting abilities. While she has a good voice, she was unable to emotionally draw in the audience to make them feel empathy and/or compassion for Ms. Monroe. Disjointed phrases and words alone weren''t able to do the trick and forced interactions between Ms. Mulder and her Musical Director Jon Weber detracted from the continuity of the production. At one point, the improperly dressed Jon Weber stood up and enthusiastically applauded after Marissa supposedly nailed a song she sang as Marilyn. The unsuspecting audience briefly woke up and started applauding louder thinking Weber was trying to generate a bigger reaction from the crowd. Jon Weber's threadbare, shabby-looking jacket looked like it was purchased at a thrift shop. It was totally inappropriate for this upscale location.
Even Sondra Lee's direction was off. Most of Marissa Mulder's performance was spent center stage. There was one tune sung to a brighter spotlight, one while she leaned against a wall, and a third while she sang to a projected image of Marilyn Monroe. For some unknown reason, she wandered through the audience when singing "My Heart Belongs To Daddy" and I already mentioned how her interactions with her Musical Director, Jon Weber on piano, fell flat. If that was the extent of the expertise Ms. Lee brought to this production, I would ask for a refund. An extraordinary reputation doesn't allow you to coast on that for the rest of your life. Fresh, new, inspirational direction should be expected on every new project. The director should be more than just a name to draw in more impressive audience members, such as Angela Lansbury, Charles Busch, and KT Sullivan, who were in the house the evening I saw the show.
There was very little substance in the stories revealed regarding Marilyn Monroe's life. Nothing was said about the abuse she suffered as a child but plenty of time was spent on frozen peas revealing that Marilyn was not a good cook. The specifics of her childhood, marriages and career were glossed over, and not much was even said regarding her death. The show was a superficial survey of snippets of her life that failed to engage the audience on any level.
Marissa Mulder: Marilyn In Fragments will play again at The Laurie Beechman Theatre at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, June 14, 2016. There is a $20.00 cover charge and a $20.00 food and drink minimum. For a show that runs barely under an hour, I think it is not worth the effort. However, Stephen Holden, writing for The New York Times, gave Marissa Mulder quite a positive review, so perhaps you should check it out yourself and make up your own mind. For more information, call 212-695-6909 or visit http://www.westbankcafe.com/#!laurie-beechman-theatre/s78r1