by Mary Hubert
The stark white set was what I noticed immediately upon entering the theater to watch David Kulcsar’s world premiere of Sleep, Marilyn, and Dream. White couch, white walls, white table, white bookshelf. I thought it was an interesting choice, and looked to see who had designed the set. To my surprise, I found that the entire production was directed, written, and designed by David Kulcsar. In addition, he was playing a role in the production.
Ambitious, I thought to myself. I rarely see work where one person holds the reins of every aspect of a production, and I rarely like work of this nature. It was with no small amount of trepidation that I settled in to watch the piece.
In some ways, I was pleasantly surprised. Kulcsar’s piece is set in Heaven and features celebrity characters galore, including Marilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, and Audrey Hepburn. If nothing else, it offered a nostalgic jaunt down memory lane. The actors did well at each of their character impersonations – Emily Shuel’s Audrey Hepburn was spot on, and Kulcsar himself played a convincing Marlon Brando. There were so many “A-ha” moments as each dead celebrity strolled onstage that I was almost able to ignore the not-so-entertaining parts… namely, the script.
Here, the problem of being the sole creator of the piece shone through. The script tried too hard to insert drama into a story that really didn’t have that much to offer. Often, moments felt corny rather than poignant, because they weren’t earned with established relationships between characters. In short, I didn’t care about the drama, because I wasn’t made to care about the characters. The dialogue felt contrived around references to the celebrities being impersonated, and the story of Marilyn’s lost children was predictable. The piece was impressive given its sole creation, but the weakness of the writing made me wish for more hands in the pot than just David’s.
Ultimately, Kulcsar’s production was a good first draft of what could potentially become a decent play. His ideas are compelling, and placing celebrities in conversation with each other onstage is always entertaining. The actors, though they focused too heavily on portraying celebrities instead of people, did admirably. The design was lovely. The pieces were all there – they just needed a better backbone to hold them together. In any piece, regardless of how compelling its components are, the story must be the priority. Kulcsar seems to have lost the thread of his amidst the glamour of old Hollywood.
The bottom line: Kulcsar’s project was an ambitious and entertaining stroll into the lives of beloved stars. However, even good impersonators and references galore failed to mask a mediocre plot. The piece has potential – revise the script and have another go!
Mary Hubert is a performing artist, director, and arts administrator in the Seattle area. When not producing strange performance concoctions with her company, the Horse in Motion, she is wild about watching weird theater, whiskey, writing and weightlifting.