Monday, April 8, 2013

Jackie and Bhutto


Jackie, recently staged by the Women’s Project Theater, is a one-woman show that purported to be an impressionistic portrayal of Jacqueline Kennedy/Onassis from inside out, that is, from her own personal self, an interesting proposition.  It was penned by the 2004 Nobel Prize winning writer Elfriede Jelinek.  Despite this prestige, the play was a disappointment.  It was a shimmering reflection that was more of blur under which Jackie’s person was barely revealed. Limiting my observation strictly to this work, I would say that Jelineck’s writing strains to naturalism with a jumble of colloquial language, a conceit without more than a sprinkle of humor, without irony, and certainly with no dramatic drive so that even at 80 minutes the play felt tirelessly repetitive.  The same day, in the evening, I went to Culture Project to see a portrait of another prominent woman dear to me: Shaheed: The Dream and Death of Benazir Bhutto, written and performed by Anna Khaja.  Rather than a self-portrayal, realized by a dangling series of monologues, Khaja’s was a clear cubist portrait composed of reminiscences by several observers, ranging from a professor to a pushcart vendor and students and journalists.  The scenes were welded tightly together with each scene containing a reference to another.  The author Khaja played all the eight characters including Benazir Butto (with a quick change from one to the next behind a latticework screen); she inhabited them with such conviction that even from the first row it was hard to believe it was one actor in all the roles, a tour-de-force reminiscent of Sarah Jones who played thirteen roles in Bridge and Tunnel, nine years ago, an anthropological portrait of multiethnic New York boroughs which addressed a larger cultural issues and therefore more dramatically satisfying rather than one individual, however complex a figure.

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