MARLENE in North Hollywood: Noteworthy One-Woman Play by Willard Manus

Cindy Marinangel as Marlene Dietrich

Cindy Marinangel amazes as legendary German-born actress Marlene Dietrich

By Petra Schuermann

It takes a lot of courage to take on the portrayal of German-American Hollywood diva Marlene Dietrich, the iconic actress from Berlin who was pressured by the Nazi-Regime to return to Germany. Instead, however, she became an American citizen and celebrated her major successes working for Paramount Studios and MGM.

The play MARLENE tells a true story: in May, 1960, Marlene Dietrich returned to Germany to perform on stage for the first time since leaving Nazi-Germany in 1939 for good.  The play is set in Dietrich’s dressing-room at Berlin’s Titania Palast Theater, where the actress and singer is trying to decide whether she should go through with the recital. Threats have been made on her life by Nazi sympathizers who still resented her for having spent much of WW II entertaining American soldiers on the front lines. In their eyes she is a turncoat, a traitor, and should be killed.

While she tries to make up her mind, playwright Willard Manus lets Marlene talk to an imaginary reporter, making this solo play more entertaining than a simple monologue,  and cleverly weaves audio clips with comments by director Josef von Sternberg, her sister Liesel, and German actor Emil Jannings into the play. This way, the audience learns more and more about Marlene’s career in Germany and in the U.S. Manus, who researched the life of Marlene Dietrich for many years, manages to pack an astounding amount of historical details into the 65-minute play. He even touches on Marlene’s bi-sexuality and covers the little known historical fact that Marlene’s sister Liesel and her sister’s husband actually worked at the concentration camp Bergen-Belsen, ironically as a movie theater operator. A call from Marlene’s daughter Maria, with whom the actress had a complicated relationship through all her life, gives more insight into Marlene’s personal life and shows the vulnerable side of the otherwise mostly poised and often boldly outspoken actress.

Cindy Marinangel as Marlene Dietrich

Cindy Marinangel, the star of this new solo play directed by Judith Rose, superbly captures the multi-faceted character of the Hollywood diva while never appearing just a flat imitation of Marlene. Instead she truly immerses herself completely into the character of Marlene Dietrich. Marinangel’s excellent performance made me catch myself many times thinking that I was watching the “real” Marlene.

Cindy Marinangel, who graduated Cum Laude from Purdue University and appeared on numerous off- and on-Broadway productions as well as in film and TV productions, owns the role and manages to keep the audience in suspense until the final line of the play. Thanks to having studied German for three years, her text passages in German are very well presented and throughout the play she manages to speak English with a continental accent giving her Marlene portrayal even more authenticity.

My only complaint is that the play, which opened on August 6 at the Brickhouse Theater in North Hollywood, is only shown on four Sundays in August with the last performance on August 27.

I hope this remarkable play and its stunning solo actress will soon be brought to a larger theater and bigger audience. The next stop is New York, and hopefully a return to L.A. is in the planning, too.

Sunday, August 6, 13, 20 and 27 at 7 PM
Write Act Repertory  @ Brickhouse Theatre
10950 Peach Grove Street
North Hollywood, CA. 91601.

TICKETS: $20 at the door
Tickets at:
Information: 800-838-3006

Cindy Marinangel – “Marlene”
Willard Manus – Playwright
Judith Rose – Director
John Lant – Producer
Jonathan Harrison – Associate Producer / Stage Manager
Tamra Pica – Producer @ Write Act Rep / Production Consultant (Marlene)
Ken Cosby – Lighting & Sound Designer
Alonzo Tavares – Production Associate @ Write Act Rep
Sandra Kuker PR – Publicist

BIOs and Background Information

(Text by Sandra Kuker)

Willard Manus – Playwright
Willard Manus has had over 40 plays produced in L.A., regionally, and in Europe. In 2016, his play, Joe And Marilyn: A Love Story, was at this theatre. Other recent plays include Frank And Ave, Bird Lives!, Berlin Cowboys, Prez – The Lester Young Story and Who Killed Comrade Rabbit (co-written with Ilia Volok).  Manus is also a novelist whose best-known book, Mott the Hoople, became the name of the British rock band of the 70’s.
He is a member of the Actors Studio, Playwrights/Directors unit and the Los Angeles Film Critics Association.  He also publishes the online literary review,
Cindy Marinangel:  Actress – “MARLENE”
Off-Broadway: Tony & Tina’s Wedding, Regional: Tony & Tina’s Wedding, (Chicago, Las Vegas); Viagra Falls, (NOLA);  The Real Thing (Annie); Bootsy’s Bodacious Burlesque (Met Room),  *Berlin Cowboys (Write Act); *Children’s Table (Hollywood Court); *Neva~Eh (Stella Adler); *Complexity, (Circus Theatricals); *Destiny’s Calling, (Stella Adler), *Taming Romeo, (West Coast Ensemble); Eavesdropper (Complex & San Fran), Overtones, (Hudson); Musee Des Femmes, (Ivar).  FILM: Average Joe (w/Tim Bagley/Sherrie Shepard); Four Played (Fred Durst); Eternal Waltz; TV: Beverly Hills Christmas (UP TV), Taylor’d Problems (Pilot), Morning Show (KTLA); Good Day LA (Fox); Forbidden Secrets (PAX); Luxury Ladies (Prosieben/Taff); VOICE OVER: Beyonce’s B-Day Special, (E! Entertainment); Brutal Legends, (#1 Video Game: Jack Black, Ozzy Osbourne).  Cindy graduated Cum Laude from Purdue University, is a Lifetime Member of the Actors Studio and a Chicago Second City Conservatory graduate, (Nia Vardalos, Stephen Colbert). She is a member of SAG-AFTRA and Actor’s Equity.
*Denotes World Premiere’s

Judith Rose – Director
Judith Rose also has choreographed and produced dozens of plays and special events in Los Angeles.  She directed “When One Is Gone” with Edward Asner and Estelle Harris at Theatre East and “Wendy and Me” with Betty Garrett and Tess Harper,  “The Words & Music of Albert Schweitzer” with Hal Linden, Lee Meriwether and Hugh O’Brian and “A Word With Orlando” at The Odyssey Theatre. She choreographed “American Klezmer” at the Egyptian Arena Theatre and for Theatre Forty, directed “A Small Place in History” and “Tuskegee Man”.  At the Actors’ Center of Los Angeles, she directed “SnowAngel” and “Postcards”.  For the LA stage, she produced “James Maitland Stewart”, about film star Jimmy Stewart.  At Group Repertory, Judith directed “Where Have You Gone, Joe DiMaggio” and “A Mother’s Work”.  For First Stage, she directed “Author, Author” and at the Artworks Theatre, directed and produced “Swimming To The Moon” about rocker Jim Morrison.  For “The Actors Studio” Judith directed “The Dresser” by Ronald Harwood, and recently directed Broadway veteran Maybin Hewes in her one-woman show “Still Struttin’ and her new show “Don & Me”.  This year Judith was Assistant Director to Emmy Award winning choreographer Walter Painter for his documentary “Fleeting Moments” about the working lives of professional dancers.  Judith is a member of; Actors’ Equity, The Society of Stage Directors and Choreographers, and the Playwright/Directors Unit of the Actors Studio.  “I am very happy and proud to be directing “The Life And Loves of Marlene Dietrich” by playwright Willard Manus, starring Cindy Marinangel and working with all the fine people at Write Act Rep.”

John Lant (Producing Artistic Director)
John is a 35-year veteran in the entertainment industry and has been involved in over 600 television, film, music tours, and theatrical productions as a creative director, consultant, and/or above the line entity. An award-winning producer, director, writer, lighting and set designer, John has mounted productions at Cal Arts, Ricardo Montalban, Powerhouse, Glendale Center, Hollywood Playhouse, Long Beach Playhouse, the Jewel Box Theatres and Write Act Repertory. His work and productions garnered DramaLogue, Diamond, ADA Awards, and Garland, ADA and NAACP nominations, as well as LA Weekly and Backstage Picks of the Week. John worked with Jonathan Sanger at Chanticleer Films, on two shorts that won an Emmy and an Oscar, and mentored under Howard Storm. Scripts he has developed include Children’s TV Pilots Symphology, Carrot Talk, and cable-themed Anonymous Confessions, and several adapted musicals. John received the California Service Award from the State Legislature for his Community Outreach and Service to the Arts in 2000, 2001, 2008 and 2009. In NYC, he is current Production Manager at Carnegie Hall, and on down time redesigns, redevelops and refurbishes theatres including the upstairs Davenport Theatre, Elektra Theatre, Times Square Arts Center Theatres, the Richmond Shepard, and a new exciting project Summer 2017, refurbishing an old off-Broadway in the Theatre District to its old glory. John’s 30-week off-Broadway production of FABULOUS! The Queen of Musicals! was recently licensed through Steele Rights. This past year he produced 2 off-Broadway Shows at St. Luke’s Theatre: Equity production of 2 By Tennessee Williams and the new musical Pillars of New York.  Current Producing Artistic Director of Write Act Repertory and Founding Member of newly formed N.M.C.L.O. (New Musical Civic Light Opera), concentrating on the development of second stage full musical workshop / productions for off-Broadway shows, and is also the Director of Development for Twisted Media NYC, his current musical production Lili Marlene in LA will be moving here off-Broadway in the Summer of 2017.

Write Act Reportory – Write Act Repertory is a membership-based organization of over 100 volunteers whose artist members include Writers, Actors, Directors, Designers and Technical personnel.

With Producing Artistic Director John Lant at the helm, Write Act Rep specializes and is dedicated to the development of original plays, lesser known works by established writers, adaptations of classical-themed materials and musicals. Write Act Rep also produces rarely seen works.