Marilyn, Mom, and Me Review – A Study in Relationships

Alisha Soper as Marilyn Monroe and Laura Gardner as Eileen Heckart in MARILYN, MOM, AND ME - Photo by Paul Kennedy
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Penned by playwright Luke Yankee, son of award-winning actress Eileen Heckart, MARILYN, MOM, AND ME in an autobiographical study of Yankee’s relationship with his mother as viewed through the lens of his mother’s friendship with Marilyn Monroe. The intertwined relationships lend authenticity to the play, given that these were real events experienced by real people, including the author himself. He is the “Me” in the title of the play. The International City Theatre proudly presents this fascinating peek into real-life relationships between a mother and her son by examining the relationship between two professional colleagues working together to make a film – and became close friends in the process.

Brian Rohan and Laura Gardner – Photo by Paul Kennedy

The time ranges from 1956 to 2001, and the places are Hollywood, Phoenix, and New Canaan, Connecticut. Forty-five years have passed since Luke Yankee (Brian Rohan) was a little tyke, and he finally decides to pin down his mother (Laura Gardner) about some questions he has had most of his life. It seems that, when he was around four years old, Eileen Heckart – a no-nonsense acclaimed Broadway actress and his mother – was featured in “Bus Stop,” a film written by Arthur Miller and starring Miller’s then-wife, the glamorous and legendary Marilyn Monroe (Alisha Soper). In the film, Marilyn’s character has numerous scenes with her best friend, played by Eileen Heckart. Since Marilyn had recently discovered the “method” school of acting, she concludes that she must make Eileen her best friend, both in the film and in real life.

Brian Rohan, Alisha Soper, and Laura Gardner – Photo by Paul Kennedy

Almost a half century later, Eileen’s son knows that time is running out, and he really wants to understand more about his relationship with his critical, tough, but loving mother. One path to reach this goal might be to learn more about his mother’s unlikely friendship with Marilyn Monroe those many years ago. With that in mind, he begins interviewing mom in order to get closer to her – and to delve into their complex relationship – by asking her about Marilyn, a topic that Eileen has always avoided. What follows is a fascinating intimate portrait of each member of the trio.

Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield and Alisha Soper – Photo by Paul Kennedy

Written and directed by Luke Yankee, MARILYN, MOM, AND ME is a clever, humorous, and entertaining study of how and why people relate to others, especially those close to them. Like Yankee’s memoir “Just Outside the Spotlight: Growing Up with Eileen Heckart,” this play qualifies as “one of the most compassionate, illuminating showbiz” tales around. The cast does an excellent job of bringing these complex characters to life – and, besides, Soper’s Marilyn Monroe looks and acts like the real article. The closing notes of Marilyn’s “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend” bring back the good old days of Hollywood glitz.  Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield (Ella Fitzgerald/Rosetta/Paul Strassberg) and Noah Wagner (Joshua Logan and others) round out the talented cast.

Noah Wagner and Alisha Soper – Photo by Paul Kennedy

MARILYN, MOM, AND ME will delight theater and movie buffs – but it will also intrigue folks who are captivated by relationships – how they form and the role they play in everyone’s lives. This is an exciting historic study of actors – but also a meaningful and engrossing examination of the mother-son dyad. Audiences may also learn some new and little-known facts about the two ladies.

Laura Gardner and Alisha Soper – Photo by Paul Kennedy

MARILYN, MOM, AND ME runs through March 3, 2024, with performances at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays through Saturdays and at 2 p.m. on Sundays. The International City Theatre is location in the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center, 330 East Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. Tickets range from $49 to $52. For information and reservations, call 562-436-4610 or go online.


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