Alberta Theatre Projects
The principal of my junior high school worked as a park ranger in Banff during the 1950’s. He was there when Marilyn Monroe came to the small town to shoot the film River of No Return, and he was there when she sprained her ankle on the set. He was asked to carry her in his arms to the first-aid station and, after he did, she kindly posed for a photo with the smitten young man. Every time he spoke of that event, he was 18 again and completely awestruck. I’m sure he had forgotten a great deal about that day, but the details surrounding his encounter with the Hollywood beauty were still effervescent.
Ken Cameron’s new play My One and Only, premiering at this year’s playRites festival, presents a similar scenario – 15 year old Scout experiences first love, first sex and first obsession with Monroe after they meet in Banff in 1952. These scenes are interplayed with ones taking place in 1962 Los Angeles, just after the movie star has died.
Throughout the play, we see Scout being captivated by Monroe’s image, whether it’s on the silver screen or in his presence. When he realizes her fate, he tries to change the future by changing his actions. He commands the film of his life to rewind, repeat and rewrite, which would be an interesting device if cinematic techniques were consistently employed throughout the production. As it stands, it is tiresome and disconnected.
Tara Hughes, who plays Monroe, is put in the unenviable position of being forced to balance an impersonation with a performance and she does a remarkable job. While I’m not generally a fan of portrayals involving such obvious vocal affectations, Hughes’s Marilyn exceeded my expectations.
As Scout, Kevin MacDonald plays a predictable obsessive teenager, but there needs to be more of an arc between his performance as a 15 year old and the scenes where he is 25.
Heather Lea MacCallum as Scout’s drunken mother and Trevor Leigh, who plays a trio of supporting characters, do well with some awkward staging and, at time, unnecessary scenes. The audience realizes almost immediately that alcoholic mom and alcoholic girlfriends are echoes of the same problem – we don’t need to have every last mystery revealed onstage.
Ultimately, there is too much going on in this play, which prevents it from making an impact. Illustrative projections and underscoring hinder the audience’s emotional response instead of supporting it. With so many devices to follow, we lost sight of what the play is actually about. Perhaps Cameron should have taken a cue from his lead character when it comes to trying to edit the past.