It seems some stars burn so brightly that they belong to the world and not just Hollywood. Which is how prize-winning Portuguese playwright Armando Nascimento Rosa came to write The Real Mother of Marilyn Monroe – a psychological thriller set during the last few days before her death – which had its world premiere in Portugal last October.
“He brilliantly constructed plots where we deal with different layers of identity,” says Clara Ploux, who directs the just-translated English version, now making its American premiere at the MATCH tonight through June 4, courtesy of Luciole International Theatre Company. “With each answer there is a new question arising; that keeps the plot going.”
Ploux says Rosa did a lot of research about Monroe and blends historical facts with his own fiction, which leaves audience members desperately trying to figure out which parts are true and rushing home to Google for answers.
"We know more about Marilyn Monroe as an icon but not so much about Norma Jean," says Ploux. "So by constructing this plot with the mother-daughter relationship. he goes behind appearances and does not do the cliché of Marilyn but brings the Norma Jean."
The three-character play starring Rachel Ollagnon, Heidi Hinkel and Micah Obregon also deals with feminine issues and identity, with some scenes set in Texas, which brings an eerie, goosebumps-raising moment for the playwright.
The play, which is set during a time when both Monroe and President John F. Kennedy were still alive, borrows heavily from history. "It was the time before JFK was killed and also very exciting for Armando because JFK was shot in Dallas and here we are [having the American premiere] in Texas," says Ploux. "Some things in the plot bring it to Texas as well. For Armando it’s really exciting because constructing a play from the other side of the Atlantic and have it in the place where things in the plot happen; it’s a coincidence. So surreal."
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As for leaving the audience members topsy-turvy about what's real and what's fiction, Ploux explains, "When you go to see a play, it’s up to you about what you saw. What's true. There are many dimensions."
Some cultural nuances in the script resulted from its translation to English, which was handled by Susannah Finzi. American audiences also will hear an original score composed by the playwright for this American premiere, performed by Laura Macedo and Marcelo Silva. The set is minimalist, set in a 1960s living room, with art projections by Paulo Cabrita and costume design by Betsy Larabee.
Those interested in learning more can attend talkbacks with the playwright on May 26-28 and June 2-3.
Performances for The Real Mother of Marilyn Monroe are scheduled for 8 p.m. May 26-27, 29, 31 and June 1-3; 3 p.m. May 28 and June 4. The MATCH, 3400 Main. For information, call 713-521-4533 or visit matchouston.org. $15 to $45.