Tom Dugan (Wiesenthal, The Ghosts of Mary Lincoln, Robert E. Lee- Shades of Grey) is an innovative playwright/historian, bringing biopic solo shows to the stage, highlighting iconic historic figures. In “Tell Him It’s Jackie,” Dugan’s current production, being performed in the intimate venue of his own backyard, Kait Haire delivers a spot on, larger than life performance of Jackie Bouvier Kennedy Onassis. In the post show Q&A, when asked how she impeccably ‘nailed’ Jackie’s exact physical expressions, mannerisms, and accent, Kait stated, “I consumed numerous videos and documentaries of live footage, garnered after her death, as well as studying Natalie Portman’s portrayal in the film, ‘Jackie.’” Tom added, “I wanted to give her the three dimensional sense of human being” that she truly embodied. Not only does Kait physically resemble the late First Lady, but she also captures her aura and essence. The audience does not only see a woman filled with grace and dignity, but also gets a glimpse of obstacles, drama, and temptations in her personal, private life.
At show’s start, Jackie reveals facts about her unusual upbringing, breeding and college life, comparing the title, First Lady, to a thoroughbred race horse. She also, in two separate lines of dialogue, explains the myth/reality of her young son being called John John by the public, while John at home. Life wasn’t as charmed as it seemed, in Camelot, as depicted by her incessant drinking of scotch and whiskey throughout the show. A poignant, visceral line of dialogue was “this scotch tastes like tragedy.” Her insecurity and ‘on the verge of suicide’ state of mind is real, as she throws objects throughout the set, almost breaking lamps, and she describes how on that fateful night, she threw a crystal champagne glass, which shattered her television screen, like ‘glass confetti breaking into tiny pieces,” she recalls. The night is June 5, 1968, when Robert Kennedy is shot and killed at the Ambassador Hotel, Los Angeles. The entire show revolves around Jackie, her reaction that night, while home in New York, and the tension felt by the audience is palpable. The history of that specific night comes to life once again, center stage, amidst a simple yet detailed set, as Jackie vividly tells her story through tears, shock, and anger. Each move and gesture tells a thousand stories. Each word of dialogue precisely depicts Jackie’s intense pain and grief, knocked too many a time by tragedies befalling the Kennedy family. This period of history is a lot to pack into one single performance. Adding some much needed levity, she invites a hint of promising new romance into her life with Aristotle 0, towards show’s end.
Ultimately, Jackie’s story stands for hope, not despair, and she, like each one of us, has a right to be understood. The playwright, Tom Dugan, is brilliant and masterful at bringing the audience from the worries of current day pandemic to that memorable era, where each viewer is lost in another time and place for at least seventy five minutes, which is truly what good theatre does.
Through Nov. 21
Dugan’s Backyard Playhouse
Fridays and Saturdays 8pm