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.
"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
"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
"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
"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
""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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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