Dear Jackie | Performing Arts Review | Chicago Reader

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Dear Jackie, Live Bait Theater.

Where Live Bait's Of Diamonds and Diplomats celebrates a Jacqueline Kennedy cherished by her contemporaries, Dear Jackie--created by 17 local artists and slyly directed by Rob Chambers--explores the love/hate relationship between the Queen of Camelot and a later generation. But there's more hate than love in most of these pieces, which dismiss Jackie for remarrying for money when she should have stayed a tragic widow; for erecting a false standard of glamour, imposed on non-Jackie first ladies; and for (wrongly) teaching a nation how to grieve: never break down in public.

Excuse her for living. Typical of the iconoclastic to mean-spirited treatment: In a talk-show spoof Jackie is forced to hear eccentric excerpts from her putative autobiography "Red on Pink." When she reaches heaven in another section, Jackie is delighted to see Jack with his head back on. Unprotected by any clout in heaven, a foulmouthed, snobbish Jackie (in Eric Lane Barnes's "Chanson de Jacqueline") is sexually harassed by Jack Ruby and once again plays second fiddle to Marilyn Monroe. A rap trio, by Lauren Campedelli, reduces the Jackie legend to so much slacker roadkill, while Marcia Wilkie's entry equates Jackie with 60s sitcom wives. In the lowest blow, Jackie's tumor is blamed on her hair dye. Lois J. Hobart's contribution is fairer: she simply conveys a young girl's delight at receiving an answer to her fan letter, a formal portrait from the White House.

Perhaps the lack of urgency in this joyless show comes from the very quality that keeps Mrs. Kennedy an enigma--we feel we don't know the real woman. And because Jackie O. protected her privacy, these writers feel free to fantasize. It's a shame that the whiny results fall short of satire or serious commentary.

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