A sleek, fizzy cocktail of a show, A Beautiful Child captures an afternoon tryst between two ordinary friends in New York. But this is no ordinary relationship: on April 28, 1955, it was Truman Capote and Marilyn Monroe who strolled through the city, trading gossip, rumors, and secrets. Based on a work of nonfiction in Capote's collection Music for Chameleons, this eloquent and hypnotic play is a revelatory and unforgettable encounter with two very distinct and provocative celebrities. Gracefully produced by the Courthouse Theater Company, it is one conversation you don't want to miss. Capote and Monroe first meet up at the funeral of Constance Collier, acting teacher to the stars. Collier took on students only after they had achieved a certain degree of celebrity, and her pupils included two Hepburns (Katharine and Audrey) and Vivien Leigh. Capote introduced Collier to Monroe, whom Collier referred to as "my special problem"—"a beautiful child" whose essence, like "a hummingbird in flight," could be captured only on film.
Here, Capote acts as our camera; ever the persistent interviewer, he softens Monroe with alcohol, relentlessly coaxing away her façade. In a dingy Chinese restaurant on Second Avenue, they openly discuss their respective love affairs. But as Capote probes deeper (as we know he will—and want him to), Monroe's tinkling laughter fades into something darker.
Ben Munisteri's evocative choreography artfully whirls Monroe and Capote into various settings, and the trim production floats by under Linda Powell's precise and elegant direction. Joel Van Liew, peering out from behind owlish glasses, deftly captures both Capote's charm and his greedy celebrity worship. And Maura Lisabeth Malloy, who certainly has no easy task in representing the legendary Monroe, is simply mesmerizing as the doomed siren. In a subtly textured and heartbreaking performance, she delicately exhibits the vulnerability and insecurity that loomed so precariously behind Monroe's beauty.
Glimpsing a grandfather clock in a store window, Monroe is transfixed. Staring at this emblem of domesticity, she pronounces, as if realizing it for the first time, "I've never had a home." It's the sort of realization that unfolds only within the bounds of comfortable, familiar friendship. Thanks to Capote, and to this extraordinary theatrical aperitif, we too get a glimpse of this sparkling light before it was extinguished.
Note: This production is part of the 2007 New York International Fringe Festival.