By Kira Golden
On November 19th, the Rancho Mirage Public Library hosted a performance of Frank V. Furino’s Marilyn…Madness, and Me, a play about an average guy whose life changed after he met Marilyn Monroe. The play ran for about a month at the El Portal Theater in Hollywood, and starred Alison Janes in the iconic role of Marilyn and Adam Meyer as Tim; an auto mechanic and narrator of the fantastical story of his relationship with the starlet.
The concept for this unique peek into the private life of Marilyn Monroe was dreamed up by local business owner Didier Bloch, who owns and operates the popular Café des Beaux-Arts on El Paseo. Three years ago Frank Furino and his wife had a fateful dinner at Mr. Bloch’s establishment, and, hearing that Furino was a writer, Bloch gave him a notebook full of his ideas–all in French. Once translated however, it became clear that there was something special about it. “Within the first two paragraphs,” Furino said, “I was dumbstruck. I went to Didier and I said, ‘What do you what to do with this?’ And he said, ‘You’re a writer, you tell me!’ I said, ‘I think it’s a play.’ He said, ‘Write it!’ But I cut my teeth on sports and news. I don’t write plays.”
Fortunately for posterity, he decided to give it a shot anyway. Through many drafts and help from director Joe Leonardo, the play ended up on a Hollywood stage with rave reviews. Now, about a month after the last Hollywood performance, the cast reunited at the production’s birthplace for a fundraising event. Tickets sales for this sold out one-night event will go to benefit the Library Foundation, which will use the money to fund programs, such as their Summer Reading Club which helps about 1300 children.
Given the limitations of the venue, this was not the full splendor of the Hollywood production, but rather a reading, where the actors had their scripts and the set was more minimal than when they had the benefits of a full Hollywood stage. Having said that, the reading was no less captivating, nor did the actors disappoint with their performances.
We open with Tim, who explains his lot in life–an auto mechanic who takes a gig as a limo driver to earn some extra cash and, by fortunate happenstance, ends up driving Marilyn Monroe. He is captivated by her and arranges things so that he is her sole driver and develops a friendly relationship with her and her trusted household staff. Over time, he falls in love with her real self–not the Marilyn Monroe persona that she wears in public, but with Norma Jean, the person. The story is told through Tim’s narration and through Marilyn’s own words, as written in her diary, which he received after her death. Tim’s set is in the forefront of the stage and Marilyn’s is further back, behind a scrim, keeping her ethereal and untouchable–a ghost or a memory; distant and unattainable.
Tim relates the story of her death and how her diary explains her heartache over her forbidden love with John F. Kennedy. Tim blames the president for her death, and the latter portion of Act I and the entirety of Act II deal with the consequences therein and our protagonist’s unwitting connection to both Lee Harvey Oswald and Sirhan Sirhan, the two men responsible for assassinating John F. Kennedy and Robert Kennedy respectively. Though Tim had no direct hand in the killings, he wanted both men dead for how they treated Marilyn, and he came in contact with both assassins, possibly influencing their actions.
The story is one of sweet sadness–a man who wants nothing more than to treat Marilyn with the kindness she deserves, and a woman who can’t see past the flash of the prominent men who want her nor escape from the patterns of her past. The play is speckled with fascinating facts about the starlet’s life; such as how she struggled with a stutter, and how the first time she signed an autograph “Marilyn Monroe,” she didn’t know how to spell it. An imaginative and unique telling of a timeless tale of a classic beauty. She will never be forgotten, and neither will this production.