Tuesday, August 19, 2008

See How Beautiful I Am: The Return of Jackie Susann (The SoHo Playhouse)

BOTTOM LINE: See How Beautiful I Am's Fringe run is over, but it still deserves a shout-out.

The primary reason to see See How Beautiful I Am: The Return of Jackie Susann is for the return of Jackie Susann - in the form of Debora Weston. Weston so successfully inhabits the character of Susann that I never for one second thought that I wasn’t actually watching the woman who wrote The Valley of the Dolls, or VD as Susann lovingly refers to it, tell me the story of her life. I knew nothing of this woman walking into the SoHo Playhouse, but was nonetheless rapt for the entire hour or so that Weston was onstage. I think that is a testament to the real person, the person pretending to be the real person and everyone else involved (writer Paul Minx, director Paul Dubois) in this very simple, classy, and intimate one-woman show.

Weston effectively navigates her way through Susann’s life hitting what I assume to be all the major events playing both the lead and supporting characters. The script beautifully illuminates Susann’s humor and strength and vulnerability and sass and puts them all on equal display constructing not a character or caricature, but a real human being. The keep-it-simple motto with respect to set, lights and sound all work to great advantage keeping the focus right where it should be - on Susann and her story. Most importantly, however, the play communicates a real sense of affection and respect for its subject and that makes it a pleasure to watch. And don't think for one second I didn’t go home and Youtube the afternoon away watching clips of the real Jackie Susann. But, truth be told, I liked the one onstage at the SoHo Playhouse better.

See How Beautiful I Am comes from London's Off The Cuff Theatre Company. For more info visit otctheatre.co.uk

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