|Tina Benko. Photo: Carol Rosegg|
By Elfriede Jelinek
Translated by Gitta Honegger
Directed by Tea Alagic
Starring Tina Benko
Set Design: Marsha Ginsberg
Costumes: Susan Hilferty
Presented by The Women's Project
What's it About?
Good question. This isn't the Jackie Kennedy Onassis (Tina Benko) you know and love. She arrives at a purgatory location that looks a drained swimming pool, or possibly a sewer treatment facility, though the significance never is explained (Marsha Ginsberg, set design), carrying the burdens of her past represented by dummies made of plastic and duct tape of John and Bobby Kennedy, second husband Ari Onassis and some little ones I assumed later to be the children she lost. She looks a little like Jackie (Susan Hilferty, costume design), but this woman explains that what you saw on the outside, the image of a perfectly coiffed and attired princess totally in control of every situation -- even the president's funeral -- wasn't the real woman on the inside.
"I am not thin, but I can look it because I dress properly," she tells us.
The inner Jackie isn't perfect. She's not even controlled. She is haunted by the shooting in Dallas, gives new explanations for why it looked like she was trying to crawl out of the vehicle and why she lost so many children, She also reveals jealousy over Marilyn Monroe's intrusion into her marriage with a playboy president. She mutilates a lot of Barbie dolls to make her point and seems deranged and vampire-like at times. What helps her keep it together? Drugs. She recommends we try speed.
What are the highlights?
Benko gives a consuming, energetic performance.
I personally enjoyed the cameo by a Barbie and the look of fright on the face of an elderly man seated house left who almost got taken out by a flying Barbie doll that missed its mark on stage and visited the audience.
What are the Lowlights?
The obvious point is to let us know that the "princess" image we have of Jackie was a facade. It's unclear if we're really supposed to replace it with the bizarre character being depicted on stage or whether this is supposed to be a dark comedy. It's like a really long Saturday Night Live sketch that's serious, instead of funny, and we didn't get the joke to begin with. I couldn't help think that Jackie would have been mortified -- especially when this Barbie-throwing princess caught the edge of her Chanel dress and revealed the seat of her pantyhose. This might not have been planned as part of the staging -- who knows in a presentation like this one -- but either way, Jackie wouldn't have liked it.
This is the North American premiere (and possibly the word premiere of the English translation -- for some reason this isn't known for sure) of Jackie, part of the playwright's "Princess Cycle," a counterpoint to Shakespeare's Kings Plays. Austrian writer Jeinek won the 2004 Nobe Prize for Literature for her novel "The Piano Teacher" which later was turned into a movie.
Jackie runs through March 31 at the Women's Project's new home at City Center II, 131 West 55th St., NYC. Tickets: 212-581-1212; www.NYCityCenter.org.
Christians might also like to know:
-- Drug use
-- Material is for adults, not children.