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Home / Life! / Entertainment / ‘Marilyn, Mom & Me,’ personal comic drama, premieres in Long Beach

‘Marilyn, Mom & Me,’ personal comic drama, premieres in Long Beach

by Staff
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Attempting to better understand his complicated relationship with his mother, playwright Luke Yankee, son of award-winning actress Eileen Heckart, delves into her friendship with Hollywood legend Marilyn Monroe. International City Theatre opens its 2024 season with the world premiere of Yankee’s deeply personal comic drama, “Marilyn, Mom & Me,” which he also directs. 

Eileen Heckart, the no-nonsense Broadway actress, and Marilyn Monroe, the glamorous Hollywood legend, developed an enduring bond during the filming of “Bus Stop” — perhaps the most important film of Monroe’s career. Forty-five years later, Yankee tries to unravel his mother’s relationship with Monroe in order to better understand his own path with this highly critical, yet loving woman. If Luke can get his mom to open up about Monroe, maybe it will make her a more sympathetic mother — or at least help him to connect with her on another level.

“In 1956, when Marilyn was cast as the lead in the film ‘Bus Stop,’ she was the biggest star in the world,” says Yankee. “She had taken the previous year off to study with Lee Strasberg and had become the poster child for ‘method’ acting, where an actor has to experience every moment truthfully. My mother was cast as her best friend in the movie, and, as a part of her newly discovered style of acting, Marilyn was determined to make my mother her best friend — both on screen and off. Reluctantly, Eileen went along with it for the sake of the film and found herself emotionally entrenched in Marilyn’s life.

“My mother loved to talk about her career… except when it came to Marilyn,” he continues. “Whenever she would do so, she would get very quiet and change the subject. If pressed, she would burst into tears. No one else she worked with had this effect on her.”

Road Theatre and Rogue Machine company member Laura Gardner stars as Heckart, alongside Alisha Soper, who previously played Monroe on two Ryan Murphy series, “American Horror Story” and “Feud: Bette and Joan.” Local Long Beach actor Noah Wagner portrays Bus Stop director Joshua Logan, Arthur Miller and Laurence Olivier, and Jacquelin Lorraine Schofield, winner of Ovation and NAACP Theater awards for “The Color Purple” at Celebration Theatre, takes on the roles of Rosetta LeNoire and Ella Fitzgerald. Emmy winner Brian Rohan, seen on stage at Ensemble Studio Theatre, Pasadena Shakespeare Company and Laguna Playhouse, plays Luke.

Yankee, a nationally recognized playwright, director, author, actor and teacher, has previously directed three productions at International City Theatre: “Crimes of the Heart,” “Private Lives” and “Shipwrecked.”

“This play is so important to me, I wouldn’t entrust the world premiere to just anyone,” he states. “I have tremendous respect for artistic director caryn desai, who is a wonderful director and caring producer. She has helped me assemble a team of top theater artists.

“Marilyn, Mom & Me” received readings at the Stella Adler Theatre and the Manhattan Theatre Club. During the pandemic, a reading was streamed live on Zoom as a benefit for the Actors Fund. The script has been awarded the 2020 Rising Artists Sponsor’s Choice Award from Southwest Theatre Productions, “Best Play” in the 2021 Writer’s Digest Play Competition, and the 2022 Stanley Award for Drama from the Stanley-Timolat Foundation. Film critic Rex Reed calls it “a stirring footnote to movie history you won’t want to miss. It’s a funny, dark, heartbreaking and unforgettable new play.” Larry King found it “a truly wonderful piece of work which reveals the playwright’s extraordinary talent at creating characters and storytelling.” 

“Marilyn, Mom & Me” runs Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m., Feb. 16 through March 3. Two preview performances take place on Wednesday, Feb. 14 and Thursday, Feb. 15, both at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $49 on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays (except Friday, Feb. 16, opening night, for which tickets are $55 and include a post show reception), and $52 at Sunday matinees. Low-priced tickets to previews are $37.

International City Theatre is located in the Long Beach Convention & Entertainment Center at 330 E. Seaside Way, Long Beach, CA 90802. For more information and to purchase tickets, call (562) 436-4610 or go to InternationalCityTheatre.org.

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