See How Beautiful I Am: The Return of Jackie Susann
nytheatre.com review by Jo Ann Rosen
August 8, 2008
Paul Minx has written a witty, cohesive monologue that showcases Debora Weston's considerable acting talents in See How Beautiful I Am: The Return of Jackie Susann. Based on the well-publicized life of Susann, "Queen of the '60s" and author of the humongous-selling Valley of the Dolls, Minx threads together smart quotes from ubiquitous interviews, which form a biographical tapestry of the pop icon.
Susann died of cancer in 1974 at 56, and the play takes place in a hospital room where Susann relives the highs and lows of her life. Driven and tenacious, she first strives for the love of her father, a fickle portrait painter who places a high premium on beauty. Using "glamour as her camouflage," she pursues an acting career, with minimal success, but gets a nibble of what it's like to be famous, and makes fame her ultimate quest. As she says, "If I'm not famous I'm nothing," and the show reveals she would do anything to get there: marry someone she knows no one else will want; embark on hundreds of affairs with both men and woman, many of them well-known personalities; edit, re-edit, and edit again a book that, when finally published, sold more copies than the Bible—assuring Susann's place in history.
However, Susann was not without her detractors. As Gore Vidal commented, "She doesn't write, she types." But, Weston delivers this information with authority, giving her character the last laugh. Weston is comfortable in Susann's skin, easily interacting with audience members and bridging transitions smoothly. She gives Susann a bawdy, ferocious appetite; a tough skin; and a sarcastic wit that brings credibility to a character that is both vulnerable and insatiable. Weston's confidence is winning, and her timing assures the successful landing of punch lines.
Directed by Paul Dubois, the play moves effortlessly from topic to topic. Whether or not you care a whit about Jacqueline Susann, this performance successfully shows that she made her mark.