New York | 1h 15m | Ends May 19

Norma Jeane Baker of Troy

From 21 critic and 25 member reviews
Members say: Confusing, Excruciating, Disappointing, Indulgent, Great acting

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. 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.

Front Row Center

"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." Full Review


"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.'" Full Review

Diandra Reviews it All

"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." Full Review

Financial Times (UK)

"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." Full Review

The Telegraph (UK)

"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." Full Review

The New York Times

""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.” Full Review

Great singing, Great acting, Thrilling, Truly original, Absorbing

See it if You're willing to be taken on this journey led by two phenomenal performances by Whishaw and Fleming.

Don't see it if You're looking for something straightforward because this isn't at all.

Also There were MANY walkouts during the performance I attended which I fou... Read more Read less

Mesmerizing, stylish, layered, intelligent

See it if You need to have a taste for Greek theatre, meta-theatrics, chamber opera, poetic language, and/or experimentation to appreciate this play.

Don't see it if The stylish, noirish atmosphere created by the talented set & lighting designers sets the tone for this work, in which the Euripides version

Also of Helen (the one where she's not even in Troy but off in Egypt) bumps... Read more Read less

Great writing, Enchanting, Confusing, Ambitious, Absorbing

See it if you love either of the actors, you like experimental theater of poetry

Don't see it if you want a linear plot or story. there is no story here really, it's just a poem adapted to the stage

Also Ben Whishaw and Renee Fleming do an incredible job with what they are ... Read more Read less

Absorbing, Intelligent, Uneven, Great singing, Great acting

See it if you want to see the two great performers in an unusual performance piece

Don't see it if you are not well versed in Greek mythology or if you require a plot with a clear through-line

Two superstars in a captivating duet

See it if Ben Whishaw dictates a screenplay about Helen of Troy to Renee Fleming who sings some of it. Ben's obsession with Marilyn gets in the way.

Don't see it if Unconventional theater that's not for everyone. But it's thrilling to watch Ben Whishaw become Marilyn right before your very eyes.

Turn on a damn light, Ben whishaw & renee fleming, Ambitious, Great singing, Great acting

See it if It’s more a poem than play and harkens back to that moment in Greek civilization when spoken poetry morphed into theatre. Great performances

Don't see it if This is a tough piece and is not for every taste, It looks like a a new for but is quite old. Just have patience and listen.

Great acting, Dizzying, Absorbing

See it if you really like Ben and Renee and are alright with a somewhat confusing storyline

Don't see it if it is important to know exactly what is going on...

Confusing, Ambitious, Great acting

See it if you want to experience something different and unique. it is a polarizing piece and won’t be for everyone. it is truly ben whishaw’s show

Don't see it if you want a cohesive storyline and enjoy more traditional theater

During previews
Weirdly hypnotic even when ambiguous, Polarizing work (not for everyone), Untraditional theatrical art, Poetic and haunting, Artistic

See it if poetic, imaginative, open-minded; a fan of divine Ben Whishaw, provocative Anne Carson; and/or operatic star Renée Fleming; a word-lover.

Don't see it if expecting a straightforward, clear, and traditional drama; you are uncomfortable watching events unravel without unambiguous consequences.

Also A world-premiere/first preview/inaugural show at The Shed. In Norma Je... Read more Read less

Cast & Creatives (10)