Norma Jeane Baker of Troy
Closed 1h 15m
Norma Jeane Baker of Troy
56

Norma Jeane Baker of Troy NYC Reviews and Tickets

56%
(55 Reviews)
Positive
34%
Mixed
24%
Negative
42%
Members say
Confusing, Disappointing, Ambitious, Great acting, Excruciating

About the Show

Renée Fleming ("Carousel") and Ben Whishaw  ("Skyfall," The Crucible") star in a dramatic work by Anne Carson exploring the lives and myths of Marilyn Monroe and Helen of Troy—iconic beauties who lived millennia apart.

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Member Reviews (55)

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39
Excruciating, Insipid, Nonsensical, Pretentious, Indulgent

See it if no reason to go.

Don't see it if not even if you must see one of the actors. Read more

22
Pointless, Boring, Excruciating, Disappointing

See it if You want an excuse to check out Hudson Yards or The Shed.

Don't see it if You don't want to be bored. The first 30mins of this show is literally a man dictating a script to a woman who is typing. Seriously? lol Read more

Critic Reviews (25)

The New York Times
April 10th, 2019

""Less a play than a staged poem...Carson is not the most immediately accessible of writers. Nor is Ms. Mitchell one to lead her audiences by the hand...Sometimes Carson’s conjunctions of figures past and present can seem both too obvious and too obscure. The show’s surprisingly predictable conclusion lacks the haunting resonance it aspires to. But the precise calibration of the physical production holds your attention...Whishaw and Fleming are, against the odds, marvelous.”
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Time Out New York
April 9th, 2019

"A piece that is luxurious and glossy, and that radiates intellect and pedigree...But ‘Norma Jeane' never manages to be more than...its superparts. It is stifling in its self-conscious gorgeousness...Although everyone involved is at the top of their games, ‘Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ is not affecting...The match between Mitchell and Carson feels wrong...The claustrophobia of the production and the lightness of the text wage war against each other. Neither wins.”
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The Wall Street Journal
April 10th, 2019

“’Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ is an embarrassment...’Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ is a bore, for Carson’s ‘verse’ is flat-footed, clunkily colloquial and very political...A humorless two-person ‘melologue’...Clark’s score is a monotonous wall-to-wall carpet of synthesized drones and sound effects...’Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ is pretentious without limit, a self-important assemblage of avant-garde clichés that goes on and on to no dramatic effect whatsoever.”
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AM New York
April 9th, 2019

“Despite Whishaw’s vocal and physical flexibility, the production eventually starts to feel like a pretentious, rambling bore. Followers of experimental theater may be able to make sense of the piece, however, and fans of Whishaw and Fleming may also find it somewhat interesting."
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Theatermania
April 9th, 2019

"What's onstage is pretty impenetrable. Whishaw perhaps takes on the role of a playwright, but it's unclear if that's his actual job, and it's similarly hazy why someone would be writing a play in what looks like the back office of a department store...I'm not really sure what this soporific piece was getting at; judging by walkouts and bewildered expressions of many audience members, I was not alone...The piece draws no clear-cut parallels between them and teaches us nothing new."
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New York Stage Review
April 9th, 2019

“Despite the able and game ministrations of Fleming and Whishaw, the enterprise is incomprehensible...The cast does march nobly onto the field of battle...Whishaw goes beyond the bounds of duty in a valiant attempt to bring life to Norma Jeane...Fleming has a most curious role, singing brief patches of jabberwocky...This develops into a frenzied but effective musical fury and hints at what Carson and Clark were trying to do...and how it might have been intended to work.”
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New York Stage Review
April 9th, 2019

“Expect to experience a gloomy and unrewarding chamber opera...Carson’s text offers dense content that’s probably better read than heard aloud. Carson’s buzzing soundscape scarcely seems like music at all. Even as Whishaw gets into drag and Fleming picks away at the keyboard, the rushing words and shivery sounds around them merge into an aural blur that’s difficult to comprehend, let alone appreciate or enjoy...The performances by Whishaw and Fleming can best be described as valiant.”
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Theater Pizzazz
April 12th, 2019

"This decidedly unconventional work is not without its rewards and compensations...Occasionally hypnotic, distinctly unconventional, and primarily less-than-comprehensible...Whishaw shows off an incredible commitment to the work...I admit that sitting through 'Norma Jean Baker of Troy' may feel hellish for those seeking a traditional theatrical experience, but, if you’re willing to go along for the ride, this is one trip that you may find quite worthwhile."
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Front Row Center
April 11th, 2019

"A spoken word, musical performance piece...Fleming is a treasure. As is Ben Whishaw and his powerful delicate self...The dialogue is so rich, every sentence a delicious taste in your mouth...Director Katie Mitchell’s hand is a slow reveal that eventually blasts out the myths of the characters, the story of writers, the audacity of life and those who create art, and love. In a word, 'sublime.' The entire production."
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Front Mezz Junkies
April 29th, 2019

“A tale that is as convoluted as it is hypnotizing and beautiful...’Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ transcends the linear structure of playwriting...The language is hard to follow...but the imagery is clear and the pictures formed are intriguing and exact...Michell pulls us through with her taunt direction, never making this piece easy to take in or understand, while also never letting it drag us down. I’m pretty sure I didn’t understand, but I also was never turned off nor did I ever tune out.”
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Exeunt Magazine
April 17th, 2019

"One may imagine a production with direction that’s more taut and active in its relationship to the text. Even so, because 'Norma Jeane Baker of Troy' succeeds on its most fundamental level, and Whishaw and Fleming are good at what they do, witnessing the play is like indulging in some intellectual candy, both deliciously sweet and sour at the same time, the flavor with you even after it’s over."
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New York Theater
April 9th, 2019

“There are undeniable pleasures in ‘Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ – Fleming’s lovely singing, Wishaw’s meticulous and sexy morphing from male to female; I even get the conceptual brilliance of this transformation, its underscoring of Carson’s themes — the reversal of gender roles show how unfair the traditional assumptions about women have been. But there are ample examples of the creative team being more interested in experimenting than in communicating.”
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Gotham Playgoer
April 21st, 2019

"Unfortunately Paul Clark’s score does not give Fleming’s luscious voice much chance to shine although there is an occasional vocal thrill...Alex Eales’s set, which Anthony Doran has lit by only a few desk lamps and an easel light, is so dark that one never really gets a good look at the actors...I cannot comment on Katie Mitchell’s direction because I have no idea what the author was aiming for...All in all, it was a dreary evening."
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The Wrap
April 9th, 2019

“Poor Marilyn Monroe. What did she ever do to end up the object of such absurd debasement in Anne Carson’s ‘Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’...Never have I seen so many walk-outs in 90 minutes...Clark has written some bluesy music for Fleming to sing, and she sounds ravishing...Whishaw’s imitation of Capote is very convincing. Regarding his Marilyn, she can best be described as Tony Perkins in a blond wig near the end of ‘Psycho’...Mitchell directs the mass confusion on stage.”
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Daily Beast
April 9th, 2019

“That this ‘spoken and sung performance piece’ isn’t so much better is surprising as it features big stars...Yet despite all this blue-chipness, ‘Norma Jeane Baker of Troy’ is a strange, lifeless, opaque mess, possessing a kind of theatrical pretension that gets ridiculed in plays or films about theatrical pretension...The script drifts...Whishaw and Fleming do not perform badly; what on earth they are performing is the issue.”
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Newsday
April 10th, 2019

“Whishaw and Fleming star in this absurdist mashup that doesn't quite manage to connect the lives of two legendary beauties who lived centuries apart...Fleming is somewhat wasted as she performs the music portion of the story, singing Clark’s vaguely operatic score...What actually happens in this piece of performance art, directed with obvious devotion to difficult material by Mitchell, is not easy to describe...It's almost impossible to follow.”
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Diandra Reviews it All
April 11th, 2019

"What I love about 'Norma Jean Baker of Troy' is that it is a dividing piece...It is a LOT to dissect, and some audience members were not willing or wanting to try...While Whishaw’s performance is enthralling and Fleming’s legendary, operatic voice ricochets with gorgeousness, for some, it was the only thing keeping them through...I want my imagination sparked as much as I want my intelligence/ mindfulness to be expanded, and 'Norma Jeane Baker' of Troy did achieve this."
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I
April 13th, 2019

"The work straddles genres – opera, experimental theater, spoken word – so genuinely that to restrict the recognition of its considerable, wide-reaching merits would be to do it a disservice...The work travels time and space with aggressive frequency that it leaves the mind spinning. But for lovers of more abstract theatrical experiences, there are few shows currently playing in the city that approach the meticulous execution and rich layers of 'Norma Jeane Baker of Troy.'"
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Philadelphia Inquirer
April 11th, 2019

"Occasionally Whishaw will strum a vague ditty on a violin and Fleming will drone a semi-musical choral ode. If you’ve come for Fleming’s magnificent voice, you will be disappointed...To tell you the truth, I have no idea what this show is about. Maybe it’s an anti-war statement, or maybe it’s an analysis of the male construct of female beauty. Maybe it’s an anti-celebrity statement...Maybe this is an indictment of our perspective on cultural history."
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The Modernist Beat
May 16th, 2019

"The modernity that is very much part of the new space’s design stands in compelling opposition to the piece’s foundation in antiquity...It is hard to imagine this show in the hands of other performers...They come together to create catharsis. Make no mistake. That is a difficult thing to experience in a theatrical setting. It requires attention in an age where attentions easily wander. I emerged from the evening somewhat exhausted but also exhilarated by what I had experienced."
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The Theatre Times
April 12th, 2019

“’Norma Jeane Baker Of Troy’ is The Shed’s first commissioned work and all the parts are in place to make for a stunning theatrical experience. Like the entire Hudson Yards project, tremendous resources and top-notch talents have been poured into this project, and yet it somehow comes out as less than the sum of its parts. The Shed, maybe the one feature which could potentially redeem Hudson Yards, has room to grow. As a construct, it’s still a work-in-progress."
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The Telegraph (UK)
April 10th, 2019

"Performed with total commitment by the astonishingly versatile actor Ben Whishaw and that great American soprano Renee Fleming...A parable of celebrity?...Or a meditation on the fluidity of identity? Your guess is as good as mine, but such is the subtle artistry of the performers, the intense atmosphere generated by Mitchell’s staging and the opaquely evocative nature of Carson’s text that the show proves weirdly mesmerising and as hard to forget as it is to fathom."
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Bloomberg
April 10th, 2019

“This is a play that could conservatively be called experimental. Judging from the audience’s tepid reaction...it was a type of experimentation that was definitely not for everyone. It’s a show that uses a classical paradigm to address issues of misogyny that are both age-old and depressingly current...There are a few moments of clarity where Whishaw manages to deliver the message forcefully. In other instances, though, his transition from a suit to a dress feels more arbitrary.”
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Financial Times (UK)
April 11th, 2019

"Carson’s text is a complex mash-up of past and present and the two women and extra characters from Marilyn’s time, interspersed with didactic 'lessons' about war...Director Katie Mitchell and her British team further complicate matters by tinkering with the text and splitting the monologue between actor Ben Whishaw and soprano Renée Fleming...Does it work? For the most part, yes...Whishaw acts brilliantly and Fleming sings beautifully."
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Plays to See
April 24th, 2019

"Carson uses the two myths as a jumping off point to examine the position of particularly beautiful women in our society and cultural imagination. In doing so, she’s simultaneously able to offer sprawling and intelligent commentary while providing the most nuanced and achingly empathetic portrait of Marilyn Monroe I’ve ever seen...I enjoyed the play least when I tried to think about it in any structured way. Don’t try to follow this piece; you won’t keep up."
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