Anyone who has ever rolled their eyes at—or felt pangs of revulsion from—the trinkets and commemorative items sold near Ground Zero will find they’re on Karen Finley’s side during her new show, The Jackie Look, in which she assumes the persona of Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis, who has returned to Earth for a one-night-only lecture about the way we co-opt images of tragic events and their aftermath to grieve individually and collectively.
Finley leaves few stones unturned during the 70-minute piece. After guiding us through the online gift shop for the museum dedicated to President Kennedy’s assassination, she discusses the moral and psychological implications of the paparazzi’s fascination with her and her family. Eventually, she expounds on the media’s dissection of Michelle Obama’s public image. It’s an intriguing, decidedly intelligent and humor-filled discourse, but it also rambles, contains only intermittent sparks of revelatory insight, and feels decidedly anti-theatrical. But the looseness of the script and performance is deceptive, because by the time Finley reaches her conclusion—a passionate and shrewd appropriation of daughter Caroline Kennedy’s frequent use of “you know”—the show has built to a keenly felt emotional, and frighteningly admonishing, climax.