Channeling the late Jackie O
LAPACAZO SANDOVAL Special to the AmNews | 3/18/2013, 12:24 p.m.
Tina Benko is Jackie O. How she managed to reincarnate a sliver of the tragic, iconic woman--a symbol of loss and stoic resilience--Jackie Kennedy Onassis, is a question that only a shaman can answer. It is theatrical alchemy, and Benko is mesmerizing. I never imagined an afternoon vspent with a walking, talking, gossip-sharing, dancing, pill-popping "corpse" could be so thoroughly entertaining and educational.
"Jackie" is the North American premiere of the play by Austrian Nobel Prize-winner Elfriede Jelinek. In the United States, she is best known for her novel "The Piano Teacher," on which the 2001 film of the same name is based.
Director Tea Alagic has the dissecting skills of a celebrated surgeon. She gets to the meat of the piece and settles comfortably in the blood and gore that is memory.
It's astonishing how the mind can hide uncomfortable truths inside the caverns of memory.
Linguistic lovers will also be particularly thrilled at how the power of spoken word ramps up to nuclear danger levels.
The press notes hit the nail on the head when it described "Jackie," which opened on March 5 at Women's Project Theater, as not the Jackie O your grandmother knew.
Jelinek's play isn't a neat dissection of Jackie Kennedy Onassis and the myths that serve, for some, as facts about her complicated life and permanent place in history.
Her carefully chosen accessories and designer clothing were done so to present a well-coiffed veneer. It was the fabrics' job to hide the agony of multiple miscarriages. The elbow high, glamorous gloves were used to hide the persistent nail-biting.
It all looked perfect in Camelot even after "bits of skull and brain" stained her chic, pink suit. There is no dry cleaner in this world that can remove that splatter from her mind.
There isn't enough space here for me to wax poetic about Benko's masterful performance. The last time I witnessed such excitement was watching Denzel Washington in previews for "A Soldier's Play" and watching Philip Seymour Hoffman going through his paces on "Inside the Actors Studio."
Submission. Power. Hypocrisy. Jackie. Who is Jelinek and who is Jackie? The stage direction from Jelinek might serve as a clue, or it might not.
"Jackie should appear in a Chanel suit, I think ... One could also take as a model that last photograph in Central Park [with Maurice Tempelsman], the one on the bench, trench coat, wig (hair lost because of chemo), sunglasses and Hermes scarf. In any case, she should work hard. I imagine all her dead loved ones, her children--well, the embryo and the two dead babies aren't that heavy--but those dead men--Jack, Bobby, Telis ('Ari')--they'll be quite a load, so, how shall I put it, she should drag those dead ones behind her like in a tug-of-war."
Marsha Ginsberg's set is eerie and familiar. Susan Hilferty demonstrated skill and creative solutions with the costume choices. The lighting and sound by Brian H. Scott and Jane Shaw, respectively, presented the audience with a comfortable spot in Jackie's purgatory.
Single tickets ($60 and up) can be purchased online at NYCityCenter.org, by calling CityTix at 212-581-1212, or in person at the New York City Center Box Office at 131 W. 55th St. (between Sixth and Seventh avenues).