Marlene Dietrich Is Focus of Puma, a NJ Rep World Premiere Starting Feb. 24

By Kenneth Jones
24 Feb 2011

Ylfa Edelstein and John FitzGibbon
Ylfa Edelstein and John FitzGibbon
Photo by SuzAnne Barabas

Puma, the new play about the love affair between actress Marlene Dietrich and writer Erich Maria Remarque, with Hollywood's Golden Age as the backdrop, gets its world premiere by New Jersey Repertory Company Feb. 24-April 3.

The play by Julie Gilbert and Frank Evans is drawn from the personal diaries of Remarque. Opening night is Feb. 26.

According to NJ Rep in Long Branch, NJ, "What happens when two heavenly bodies collide? Puma explores the life-long, obsessive and tempestuous love affair between Marlene Dietrich, the German actress who became a Hollywood icon, and Erich Maria Remarque, the celebrated author of 'All Quiet On The Western Front.' As the inevitable conflagration of World War II loomed over Europe, both Dietrich and Remarque fled Nazi Germany to the United States. The play takes the audience through their unconventional relationship over the decades as they both work to establish themselves in their new homeland while struggling with the challenge encountered by all immigrants, displacement. Along the way they meet and sleep with an impressive cavalcade of Hollywood's luminaries while at the same time attempting to accommodate their respective marriages. Jimmy Stewart and Paulette Goddard are also featured in the play as they are pulled into the powerful and seductive orbit of these two larger-than-life characters."

Directed by NJ Rep's artistic director SuzAnne Barabas, Puma features Ylfa Edelstein (as Marlene Dietrich), John FitzGibbon (as Erich Maria Remarque), Christopher Vettel (as James Stewart) and Natalie Wilder (as Paulette Goddard).



The Remarque diaries had been kept in a vault for years and were translated from the German and made accessible for the first time to playwright Gilbert, according to production notes. The diaries reveal previously unknown details about the lives of many of Hollywood's most famous personalities.

Gilbert was born into a literary and theatrical family. Her mother was the actress Janet Fox and her great aunt was the renowned writer Edna Ferber. She is a novelist and biographer who was nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award for her biography, "Ferber," and also received a Pulitzer Prize nomination for "Opposite Attraction: The Lives of Erich Maria Remarque and Paulette Goddard." Evans is the lyricist for the Off-Broadway musical, Abie's Island Rose and Back Home, The War Brides Musical.

Puma performances are Thursdays and Fridays at 8 PM; Saturdays at 3 PM and 8 PM; Sundays at 2 PM. There is no matinee opening night.

For tickets, call (732) 229-3166 or visit www.njrep.org for online ticketing.