Tuesday, September 18, 2007

"My Problem Child"

"A Beautiful Child" presented by FringeNYC Encores at the Culture Project, September 15, 2007

"A Beautiful Child" is an adaptation of a Truman Capote story from a collection published in 1975, Music for Chameleons. (No credit for the adaptation was provided in the playbill.)

The story is based on an afternoon that Mr. Capote spent with Marilyn Monroe after the funeral of her acting coach, Constance Collier. The 40-minute act begins with Mr. Capote (Joel Van Liew) in direct address to the audience about Ms. Collier, and her relationship with him and Marilyn. I must give Mr. Van Liew credit for smoothly handling the latecomers who marched in after he had begun to speak. Ever polite, as Truman was, he encouraged them to find suitable seating, before continuing with his monologue. His Truman was not a caricature, nor even an attempt at imitation, but more what I imagine Truman viewed himself as a literary device in this particular story. Still fey and bespectacled, of course, but not lisping and nasal. To have done more would have upset the balance of the characters as they were presented.

Maura Lisabeth Malloy's Marilyn was very impressive. Dressed in all black and forgoing the blond locks that made her so famous, Ms. Malloy captured a Marilyn that most of us might have imagined would be in "real life": insecure, sometimes unaware, sometimes inappropriate, occasionally crude, ever vulnerable yet always thinking. She also gets a couple of terrific zingers, too. About Los Angeles: "One big varicose vein." After Truman's confession of a one-nighter with Errol Flynn and his reputed prodigious endowment, she says, "Everyone says Milton Berle has the biggest prick in Hollywood, but who cares?"

Director Linda Powell has done a nice job of keeping the flow organic as the play flows from scene to monologue elegantly. The only part that approaches a misstep is some uncomfortable choreography used as musical scene shifts. Ellen Reilly's costumes suit the moment. Lara Fabian's minimal sets also fit well.

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