“Marilyn, Mom and Me” Theater review

Alisha Soper and Laura Gardner
Photo by Paul Kennedy

Everyone loves a good showbiz story and the inaugural offering of ICT’s 2024 season leaves no one in the theater wanting.

The world premiere of “Marilyn, Mom and Me” by award winning playwright and director Luke Yankee delivers the goods in ways that you don’t see coming, surpassing all expectations and pre-conceived notions of what you think the show might be about.

Audiences can be forgiven for thinking that this might be one more example of a Hollywood tell-all biopic complete with celebrity impressions but it couldn’t be farther from that scenario in its explorations of insecurity, loneliness and closure that never comes, all under the unforgiving microscope of fame and glamour. The play details the friendship of Hollywood icon Marilyn Monroe and her co-star Eileen Heckart during the filming of the 1956 film “Bus Stop”, as related by Heckart to her son Luke Yankee.

The play never drags but moves deftly forward from the start, propelled by a stellar cast under the excellent and brisk direction of playwright Yankee in this fascinating auto-biographical work.

Alisha Soper and Laura Gardner
Photo by Paul Kennedy

Laura Gardner steals the show with her performance as Eileen Heckart, flawlessly channeling her gravitas, body language and irascible humor. Caught between her maternal love for her son and her disapproval of his lifestyle, she fluctuates from genuine support and outright brutal honesty in her attempts to, as she believes, make him realize his full potential as a creative force who is truly capable of doing great work.

Alisha Soper
Photo by Paul Kennedy

The amazing Alisha Soper defies all expectations of a “Marilyn Monroe impersonator” as she brings pathos and true humanity in her portrayal of one of America’s most beloved icons of cinema. Far more than a two dimensional cutout, Soper is practically a magician in creating a real person that entertains and makes our hearts ache to witness her interior pain. She embodies everything that’s RIGHT about the burden of creating a realistic Monroe and to experience that is a rare treat for audiences. You won’t be disappointed in the least.

Alisha Soper and Noah Wagner
Photo by Paul Kennedy

The program credits Long Beach Theater veteran Noah Wagner as “Josh Logan and Others” but that is a vast understatement as Wagner deftly alternates between portraying Josh Logan, Arthur Miller, Laurence Olivier, Duane the Second AD, Mocambo owner Charlie Morrison, a Mocambo waiter….the list is endless. Wagner is always a shining jewel in every play and performance that he inhabits and it’s truly a joy to see him grace the stage for the first time at ICT.

Laura Gardner and Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield
Photo by Paul Kennedy

The bombastic Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield is also fielding multiple roles as Rosetta, Paula Strasberg and another Hollywood legend, jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. Her portrayal as Heckart’s best friend Rosetta is a solid combination of comedic moments and a Greek Chorus towards Heckart’s relationship with her son but it’s her performance as Ella Fitzgerald that absolutely showcases just how good Schofield is with equal parts comedy, tragedy and her incredible prowess in belting out Fitzgerald’s purity of tone. A crowd-pleaser, to be sure!

Brian Rohan and Laura Gardner
Photo by Paul Kennedy

Brian Rohan portrays Luke Yankee himself, ably and confidently bringing to life the author as main protagonist. He bears the load of living in the shadow of celebrity in full measure while seeking his own spotlight and accomplishments, eliciting our empathy without asking for it. Kudos, well done!

The set design by Scenic Designer Dan Volonte is sparse, minimal and incredibly effective with many playing spaces on the geometric shapes and a few chairs, the projected images on a rear screen being a very nice touch in bringing the audience to so many different locales within the story. Wardrobe and Costume Design by Kimberley DeShazo is right on point, recalling 1956 in all its glory, lightning-fast costume changes notwithstanding.

In her inimitable and classy style, Artistic Director caryn desai opened the season with a wonderful curtain speech about the importance of supporting Long Beach theater and this show is an excellent example of doing just that.

Don’t miss this stellar show before it closes on March 3rd.  Enjoy the glamour, heart and humanity that is “Marilyn, Mom and Me”.

MARILYN, MOM AND ME International City Theatre 330 E. SEASIDE WAY, LONG BEACH CA 90802

“A true story written and directed by Long Beach resident Luke Yankee, whose mother was a well-known, Oscar and Tony-winning character actress named Eileen Heckart. In 1956, when Heckart was cast as Marilyn Monroe’s best friend in the film, BUS STOP, Monroe, the ultimate “method actress”, set out to make Heckart her best friend in real life. 40 years later, Luke tries to unravel his complex, often volatile relationship with his mother by better understanding her intense friendship with one of the biggest movie stars of all time.”

Dates available  Time

Saturday, February 17, 2024        7:30 PM

Sunday, February 18, 2024           2 PM

Thursday, February 22, 2024       7:30 PM

Friday, February 23, 2024              7:30 PM

Saturday, February 24, 2024        7:30 PM

Sunday, February 25, 2024           2 PM

Thursday, February 29, 2024       7:30 PM

Friday, March 1, 2024     7:30 PM

Saturday, March 2, 2024                7:30 PM

Sunday, March 3, 2024   2 PM


Marilyn, Mom, & Me

Bryan Moore

About Bryan Moore

Theatrical connoisseur, colorful raconteur of some note, sartorial gentleman about town. Coffee's for closers. Fortune favors the bold.
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