MISS GOLDEN DREAMS
A Contemporary Theatre, 700 Union, 292-7676, $10-$19.50 7:30 p.m. Sun. and Wed.-Thurs.; 8 p.m. Fri.-Sat. ends Sun., Aug. 26
NOVELIST Joyce Carol Oates has already shared her thoughts on Marilyn Monroe in last year's mammoth Pulitzer Prize finalist Blonde, and the book's 700-some pages gave her the chance to gorge on whatever unsavory truths struck her fancy. On stage, though, in Oates' Norma Jean elegy Miss Golden Dreams at ACT, the myth is a mouthful. It's obvious that the playwright has bit off much more than she can chew in 90 minutes when the show opens with a re-creation of the star's famous nude calendar shoot and the leering photographer, inspired by his subject's vulnerability, begins to drone on about the Holocaust. The play keeps coming at us in similarly sour gulps and is soon crippled by its own grim appetite. We're left with the idea that there was no joy at all for Marilyn, and, by implication, that we should feel some shame in our joyful response to the candied creation. Yet Monroe must have enjoyed some rush from the unadulterated release of her particular powers. Only one moment nails it: Marilyn dangles from a helicopter, caught up in a delirium of need and ecstasy as she flies over and over again above an army encampment and waves to the excited soldiers while exhorting, "This is the happiest day of my life!"
In the unenviable position of having to provide flesh to a renowned fantasy, Carolyn Baeumler captures something human. Her wig doesn't do her any favors, but she lassoes in the familiar cadences of the star's speech, and rides the perhaps impossible mercurial transitions between hope and despair. She'll only get better in what must be a wearying task. Frank Corrado and Peter Crook, two fine actors in other arenas, won't be as lucky. They seem miffed playing all of Marilyn's men, and you can't blame them. Oates may very well be right that between Joe DiMaggio, Arthur Miller, and the rest there wasn't a single wholly decent human being, but surely they were human beings? Director Kurt Beattie tries to have fun with Oates' blatant, one-note monsters, but he and his actors are defeated by the monotony.
Most of the evening runs along the lines of Oates' morbid dissection of The Seven Year Itch, and the iconic moment in which Marilyn stands over a subway grating, the air rushing up to send her white dress foaming around her waist while she famously coos, "Mmmm! Isn't it delicious?" Oates pushes it to inform us not only that "her scalp and her pubis burn from that morning's peroxide," but that "without her dress she would've been meat." Yes, you want to say during this and throughout Miss Golden Dreams, but there was a dress, and it was delicious.
FAT GIRL FOLLIES: A REALLY BIG SHOW
On the Boards, 100 W. Roy, 217-9888, $13-$15 9 p.m. Thurs.-Sat.; 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Sun. ends Sun., Aug. 26
ONE HUNDRED POUNDS ago, Bellevue's Overlake Hospital labeled Peggy Platt "morbidly obese." But she's not about to try to hide her weight. In fact, she's tired of the hiding, the inner feelings of guilt and the outer pressure to conform to society's unrealistic female ideals. The best part about her very autobiographical show is a willingness to lay herself, and parts of the lives of her plus-size co-stars, Kelly Wright and Tova Hansen, on the line. I've seen you stare, she tells the audience with every wink; I've seen you whisper and wonder at me, so come on, go ahead and ask whatever it is you want to know. In 80 minutes Platt covers a lot of ground —dieting disasters, swimsuit misfortunes, life as an actress, the trip to Overlake—all accompanied by musical numbers. It's a vast surface of personal insight only a couple of ounces deep. With so many humorous sketches of her life whizzing by, even the genuinely tender moments are quickly carted off stage for the next number. No lasting feeling of intimacy, which might allow the audience to ask their burning questions, is ever achieved. Platt's biggest obstacle in pulling off the connection she's attempting is also one of her biggest gifts: comedy. She knows when she's got the audience lapping out of her hand, and she isn't about to let go. Yet by playing the funny fat girl, she can't get us to see beyond the funny fat girl. We see more in Wright and Hansen, who make their own wonderful moments to shine, and leave this show appreciating how these people haven't been hindered by their weight. Yet Platt remains a mystery, hidden behind an impeccable sense of timing and a hopeful smile.