nytheatre.com review by Martin Denton
July 17, 2009
The play that I saw right before it at the Midtown International Theatre Festival contained a long allusion to Breakfast at Tiffany's, so maybe that's what put it into my head—but in many ways, Monroe Bound reminds me of that iconic story and film. The protagonist of Monroe Bound, Lexington Monroe, is actually compared by another character in the play to Marilyn Monroe (Capote's first choice for Holly Golightly, right?). Lexie, like Holly, is from a small town in the South that she's doing her best to put behind her now that she lives in the East Village in NYC. She may not be fantasizing about diamonds, but she has just moved from one main chance (a rich rising young attorney named Brannon) to the next (a smart and upwardly mobile photographer named Pace). And Lexie, like Holly, has a father from back home who comes to visit her.
Certainly the idea of people reinventing themselves and their histories to blot out what they don't like about their pasts pervades Monroe Bound. Lexie is adrift, looking for something to latch onto, something that will help her understand who she is. (The fact that Pace is a woman and Brannon is a man tells us something about the fluidity of Lexie's self-image at the moment.) And Alvin, Lexie's father, holds secrets about his wife—the mother Lexie never really knew, who Lexie believes was killed in an auto accident decades ago—that he longs to let go of.
They're interesting characters that are easy to care about. One of the things I liked best about Monroe Bound is that its playwright, Lucile Scott, doesn't take them down obvious paths. The play's conclusion is quite lovely, suggesting that you don't really have to know everything about a person to love them unconditionally.
With director Steven Gillenwater at the helm, the play proceeds a little less steadily than we might wish. Some of the obstacles relate to producing in this festival; it seemed to me, for example, that the lighting was problematic on part of the stage, perhaps owing to the number and positioning of instruments, an element beyond the control of Mighty Little Productions (producer of Monroe Bound). The performances run the gamut from Scout Durwood's assured take on Pace and Thea McCarten's fully-fleshed out portrayal of Dorothy, a woman who embarks on a complicated relationship with Alvin, to less sure-footed work by Kristin Ciccone as Lexie's mother (in flashbacks) and Michael Munoz's somewhat affected portrayal of Robert, Lexie's gay male best friend. Thomas Poarch and Brian Whisenant share the role of Alvin (the former plays him as he is today while the latter plays him in flashback scenes) and they convince us that they are portraying the same man. In the key role of Lexie, Krista Dane Hoffman is as beautiful as the character is described; she makes it easy for us to understand why people seem to want to take care of this young woman.