Miss Golden Dreams
A Contemporary Theatre, 292-7676. Through Aug 26.

The astonishingly prolific Joyce Carol Oates has written some really good--even great--novels, short stories, essays, and plays. Miss Golden Dreams is not among them. Oates' novel about Marilyn Monroe, Blonde, was a finalist for both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize; maybe some theater entrepreneur thought that giving Oates one more shot at the Monroe material would score the big one. But I can't imagine what the folks at ACT were thinking when they included this embarrassing excuse for a script in their season.

Maybe they didn't read it beforehand? The little note slipped into the program--"During the development of this new production, the role of Young Norma Jeane was edited from the script..."--was not a good sign. If this play wants to reveal an even vaguely complex human being beneath the bombshell figurine created by Hollywood, it fails miserably. Poor Carolyn Baeumler in the lead: as the show went on, I thought, "When is she going to get a line that lets her do anything but simper, whine, or be the worst and most outdated image of Woman-as-Child-Victim?" Poor Frank Corrado. I know the guy can act. He's got a wonderful voice, majestic stage presence, and has done some fine work here in the past. But in Oates' trifle, Corrado has to play a bunch of completely clichéd male sleazeballs (Ex-Athlete, Playwright, Pimp, Secret Service Man). And poor, poor, poor Peter Crook, who plays--among his own bunch of clichéd male sleazeballs--an astonishingly wigged JFK. What on earth were the costume and makeup designers thinking when they let Crook on stage in that thing?!?!

The exploitation of Marilyn Monroe and other innocents by our peculiarly vicious culture of celebrity is a worthy subject. And you'd expect Oates, with her keen sensitivity to the creepiest underbelly of America, would be able to do something smart with the story. But in this play, she doesn't. Don't waste your time going to see this.

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