For a little more than 60 breathless minutes, Debora Weston holds the audience in the palm of her fist as Valley of the Dolls novelist Jacqueline Susann. Directed by Paul Dubois, Paul Minx's script beautifully conveys all of the author's charming and maddening stylishness and sexiness. Susann, a full-blown narcissist, used her ample supply of sex and brains to leave her stamp upon the world.
It's fascinating how much biographical information Minx stuffs into his piece, which occurs in and around a hospital bed to remind us of the cancer that took Susann's life. Some facts — Guy, her autistic son, being institutionalized for most of his life; her disputed affair with Ethel Merman; her undisputed affairs with Eddie Cantor and Joe E. Lewis — are well known. Other facts may intrigue even Susann's most serious fans.
Weston's performance is stronger than an atom bomb yet light as a feather, with emotional resonance and veracity in every line and piece of blocking. In the end, it is clear that Susann didn't merely author a famously trashy bestseller. She understood the contours of fame and craved it.
Presented by Off the Cuff (UK) and King William Productions as part of the New York International Fringe Festival
at the SoHo Playhouse, 15 Vandam St., NYC.
Aug. 8-17. Remaining performances: Fri., Aug. 15, 5:30 p.m.; Sat., Aug. 16, 5:30 p.m.; Sun., Aug. 17, 12:30 p.m.
(212) 279-4488 or (866) 468-7619 or www.fringenyc.org.