Norma Jean Baker of Troy

The New Yorker

Anne Carson’s music-theatre piece, with a score by Paul Clark, begins with a man (the splendid Ben Whishaw), who could be a playwright or a classicist, furtively unlocking the door to an office typing pool around midnight on New Year’s Eve in 1963. He is meeting with a stenographer (Renée Fleming) to dictate a lyric drama in the style of the ancient Greeks—but, instead of narrating the sacking of Troy or the assassination of a President, he converges the stories of two women, Helen of Troy and Marilyn Monroe, who have been scapegoated as bimbo-temptresses in the stories of great men. Carson’s free-associative language lacerates but also takes cryptic turns, and so it falls to Katie Mitchell’s unsentimental direction to press toward the finale: Whishaw slowly dons Monroe’s pleated ivory dress from “The Seven Year Itch,” taking on the damage done to her, as Fleming’s soprano—another exemplar of legendary beauty—soars with the force of an uncontainable soul.— Oussama Zahr, The New Yorker