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. More…
"Norma Jeane Baker of Troy" is a partly spoken, partly sung performance piece by poet, essayist, and scholar Anne Carson, staged by Katie Mitchell in The Shed’s 500-seat Theater.
“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.” Full Review
"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." Full Review
"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." Full Review
“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.” Full Review
“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.” Full Review
“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.” Full Review
“’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.” Full Review
See it if You love postmodern, very experimental work, that the rest of us can't follow. Or just don't want to.
Don't see it if It was hard to follow. And what I did catch, wasn't worth it.
See it if you like experimental plays and would like to see a play that is a hard to follow poem, you want to se renée and ben
Don't see it if you like structured and more concrete narratives
See it if You like watching in horror as two performers at the top of their game are trapped in a pretentious play that criminally wastes them
Don't see it if you’re not into pseudo-intellectual crap
See it if You enjoy poem/plays that include lines about wind phones producing Truman Capote.
Don't see it if This idea had so much potential, but you’re left with a lot of pretentious imagery and no connection to the audience. Poor Renée and Ben.
Get alerts about your favorite artists and theater companies