La Mama presents an artistic, engaging and entertaining show befitting the East Village, about the Warhol protege.
For years people have been asking, “Where did the art of the village go? Well, its back in all its glory in Jukebox Jackie: Snatches of Jackie Curtis.
In the telling of the life of one of those fame-seeking, film-cult superstars of the Andy Warhol Factory during the late 1960s and early ‘70s, Justin Vivian Bond exclaims in the opening scene - as she channels a desperate urgency from Jackie’s diary -- “I want to hit the heights, I want to be a Broadway star. I don’t want to be just a cheap lady of the chorus who is always yearning for a star on the door and a dressing room full of roses!”
Bond, who herself began as a village cabaret performer, and then catapulted to Broadway as the leading half of the Tony-Nominated Kiki and Herb, seemed perfect casting. Bond identifies neither as male nor female; Curtis was one of the gender rebels of her time -- mostly in dresses and makeup, but also straying from the stereotypical male to female feminine personas that so defined her Warhol compatriots Candy Darling and Holly Woodlawn: I’m not a boy, not a girl, not a faggot, not a drag queen, not a transsexual—–I’m just me, jackie.”
There is a strong cast in this Scott Whittman production, which was presented as a collage of part musical, part drama, part skits and monologues, all wrapped up in performance art. What a fitting way to tell the life story of a conflicted character who herself was walking art; she wasn’t just one definable thing.
The cast includes the gender-bending Bond, powerful and buxom Bridget Everett, a androgynous and effeminate Cole Escola, and the strapping, muscular, good-looking Steel Burkhardt. Each, at different moments, provide a different Jackie persona and voice at various times and scenes from her life, while at other times sigue into the roles of other significant people in Jackie’s life.
This, played out through dialogue, song and readings from Jackie’s diary, with people constantly changing roles, and sometimes without warning or explanation, left the audience a bit confused at times. Yet whether by accident or design, the disjointed and disorienting nature of it, in a way, worked. After all, Jackie's life and personality were also disjointed; thus the audience not only watched her story, they experienced her confusion.
The elements of her life included rape, ambition, conflict, rage, and insanity in its telling ... yes, it was a comedy.
Though in truth her life was a tragedy, Jackie’s diary deals with adversity and tragedy through humerous prose: “Don’t you get tired with all these movies today about junkies and drug addicts and dope fiends?If we have to have movies like that, why can’t they all be musicals?” Raped? Yes, she was ... but she liked it!
Tony-winning Broadway veteran Scott Pask provided an artistic usage of a very sparse set. Ten feet in front of the first row, the round white disc of a stage, perhaps a foot off the ground, had the name Jackie scripted across it, and nothing more than a brightly-covered trunk as a prop on it. Beyond that is a more traditional stage that rises behind; but only deep enough to create the illusion of a full stage, with a curtain, and a catwalk that is utilized above it.
A nice dynamic to the show was that when the curtain was closed, it at times served to screen video montages that depicted the scene of the times, and also up close and intimate images of Jackie herself. It worked very nicely to bring us closer to her life and the times; one leaves with a sense that they now knew her somehow -- like perhaps a brief encounter that you barely recall from a party long ago.
Cole Escola shined in Cigarettes, Cigars! (Mark Gordon, Harry Revel), and again with Steel Burkhardt in Boys Keep Singing (Bowie and Eno). Bridget Everett delivered a high-energy, thunderous show-stopper performance [of Lou Reed’s] I’m Waiting For The Man. And Justin, dressed in a black dress, hose and shoes, with a fuchsia scarf for accent, deep in thought crooned with her baritone voice in [the Lou Reed song] Wrap Your Troubles in Dreams; later she moves us with [the Jonathan King song] Everyone’s Gone To The Moon.
The full cast closed the show with a ruckus Celluloid Heroes (Ray Davies). There was something here for everyone: great monologues, comedy, insightful and uplifting solo and ensemble songs -- supported by the accomplished band of Lance Horne and the Colored Girls --, and solid acting by the entire cast.
As a footenote, fittingly, when Curtis was alive, some of her own plays were staged at La Mama.
Runs through June 10th, 2012 at The Ellen Stewart Theater 66 East 4th Street (between 1st Ave and Bowery)
The Cast: Justin Vivian Bond, Bridget Everett, Cole Escola, Steel Burkhardt
With: Lance Horne and the Colored Girls (Matt Aronoff, Matthew Bauder, Dave Berger, Mike Jackson, and Steve Welsh
Collaged by: Scott Wittman and Tony Zanetta
Designed by: Scott Pask
Lighting by: Aaron Spivey
Projection Design by: Caite Hevner
Costumes by: Rita Ryack
Staged by: Joey Pizzi
Musical Direction and Arrangements by: Lance Horne
Conceived and Directed by: Scott Whittman
Production Stage Manager: Jason A. Quinn
Stage Manager: Sarah Tschirpke
Staging Associate: Chad Luke Schiro
Jackie’s Truck Designed and Created by: Tom Hooper
Graphic Design by: Tim Hailand and Kissane Viola
Photo by: Leee Black Childers
Assistant to Scott Pask: Orit Jacoby Carroll
Assistant to Aaron Spivey: Joel Shire
Assistant to Rita Ryack: jessica De La Cruz