Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Quick Hit Theater Review: Jackie

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.

More Information:
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;

Christians might also like to know:
-- Drug use
-- Material is for adults, not children.

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Our reviews are professional reviews written without a religious bias. At the end of them, you can find a listing of language, content or theological issues that Christians might want to know about when deciding which shows to see.

** Mature indicates that the show has posted an advisory because of content. Usually this means I would recommend no one under the age of 16 attend.

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

Theater Critic Lauren Yarger

My Bio

Lauren Yarger has written, directed and produced numerous shows and special events for both secular and Christian audiences. She co-wrote a Christian musical version of “A Christmas Carol” which played to sold-out audiences of over 3,000 in Vermont and was awarded the 2000 Vermont Bessie (theater and film awards) for “People’s Choice for Theatre.” She also has written two other dinner theaters, sketches for church services and devotions for Christian artists.

Yarger trained for three years in the Broadway League’s Producer Development Program, completed the Commercial Theater Institute's Producing Three-Day Training and produced a one-woman musical about Mary Magdalene that toured nationally and closed with an off-Broadway run.

She was a Fellow at the National Critics Institute at the O'Neill Theater Center in Waterford, CT. She writes reviews of Broadway and off-Broadway theater (the only ones you can find in the US with an added Christian perspective) at

She is editor of The Connecticut Arts Connection (, an award-winning website featuring theater and arts news for the state. She is a contributing editor for and is a theater reviewer for the Manchester Journal-Inquirer. She previously served as Connecticut theater editor for and as Connecticut and New York reviewer for American Theater Web.

Yarger is a book reviewer for Publishers Weekly and freelances for other sites. She is a member of the National Book Critics Circle.

She is a freelance writer and playwright and member of The Drama Desk, The Outer Critics Circle, The American Theater Critics Association and The League of Professional Theatre Women. She served as a judge for the SDX Awards presented by the Society of Professional Journalists. She also is a member of the Connecticut Critics Circle and the CT Press Club.

A former newspaper editor and graduate of the University of Missouri’s School of Journalism, Yarger also worked in arts management for the Bushnell Center for the Performing Arts, the Hartford Symphony Orchestra and served for nine years as the Executive Director of Masterwork Productions, Inc. She lives with her husband in West Granby, CT. They have two adult children.


All material is copyright 2008- 2017 by Lauren Yarger. Reviews and articles may not be reprinted without permission. Contact


Key to Content Notes:

God's name taken in vain -- means God or Jesus is used in dialogue without speaking directly to or about them.

Language -- means some curse words are used. "Minor" usually means the words are not too strong or that it only occurs once or twice throughout the show.

Strong Language -- means some of the more heavy duty curse words are used.

Nudity -- means a man or woman's backside, a man's lower front or a woman's front are revealed.

Scantily clad -- means actors' private areas are technically covered, but I can see a lot of them.

Sexual Language -- means the dialogue contains sexually explicit language but there's no action.

Sexual Activity -- means a man and woman are performing sexual acts.

Adultery -- Means a married man or woman is involved sexually with someone besides their spouse. If this is depicted with sexual acts on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Sex Outside of Marriage -- means a man and woman are involved sexually without being married. If this is depicted sexually on stage, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Homosexuality -- means this is in the show, but not physically depicted.

Homosexual activity -- means two persons of the same sex are embracing/kissing. If they do more than that, the list would include "sexual activity" as well.

Cross Dresser -- Means someone is dressing as the opposite sex. If they do more than that on stage the listing would include the corresponding "sexual activity" and/or "homosexual activity" as well.

Cross Gender -- A man is playing a female part or a woman is playing a man's part.

Suggestive Dancing -- means dancing contains sexually suggestive moves.

Derogatory (category added Fall 2012) Language or circumstances where women are referred to or treated in a negative and demeaning manner.

Other content matters such as torture, suicide or rape will be noted, with details revealed only as necessary in the review itself.

The term "throughout" added to any of the above means it happens many times throughout the show.

Reviewing Policy

I receive free seats to Broadway and Off-Broadway shows made available to all voting members of the Outer Critics Circle and The Drama Desk, the two professional critics organizations with journalists covering NY theater. Journalistically, I provide an unbiased review and am under no obligation to make positive statements. Sometimes shows do not make tickets available to reviewers. If these are shows my readers want to know about (I review all Broadway shows and pertinent Off-Broadway shows), I will purchase a ticket. If a personal friend is involved in a production, I'll let you know, but it won't influence a review. If I feel there is a conflict, I won't review their portion of the production.

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