ARTS

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May 13, 2005

Diamonds in the rough

In association of Live Bait Theatre, the Field Museum presents Letitia Baldrige's Of Diamonds and Diplomats. It is the true, although sugarcoated, tale of Baldrige's time as Jackie Kennedy's social secretary. Baldrige was Jackie Kennedy's go-between among some of the most important figures of the Cold War. The characters mingle on a stage that consists of only mics and scripts. Occasionally, they use a hat or tiara as a prop, but the strength of the piece relies on the actors. Many of the performances are strong, and all of the actors, with the exception of Laurie Larson, who plays Baldrige, play multiple roles.

Baldrige gives a steady, consistently satisfying turn as Jackie's social secretary. This character is aware that she is not revealing the whole truth, that she is only reaffirming her generation's mythical beliefs of the personalities of the Kennedys. Jack is a stern but careful leader whose youth and inexperience sometimes get the better of him. On the other hand, Jackie (Heidi Drennan) is a prim, almost cold figure, who is aware of every diplomatic nicety, has very little interaction with her husband, and has an unusual obsession with pillbox hats. Marjorie Fitzsimmons and Merrie Greenfield are impressive and witty in their portrayal of the press, women writing to Jackie Kennedy for advice, and movie stars, as well as other characters. They take the phrase "there are no small parts…" and run with it.

The make up of the audience reaffirmed my belief that I am really a 40-year-old stuck in a 20-year-old's body. This play is for people who openly admit to watching Masterpiece Theatre and the History Channel. If you catch yourself watching television with your grandparents (and you both enjoy yourselves), then this is your play. The audience was mainly middle-aged women and their husbands.

At first, I felt bad for the husbands. I thought, "First you drag him to see all of Jackie Kennedy's dresses at the Field Museum—a daunting ordeal for most males, I imagine—and then a play about her life. It's just too much to bear." But these men seemed to enjoy themselves, as the overarching themes of the play were usually comical and not gender-specific.

If you're looking for one hell of an awful Jack Kennedy impression, then you've found your next Saturday night activity. It's apparent that this actor (Brendan Sullivan) has never been to Boston—and if he has, he seems to think Bostonians have the accents of half-men, half-orangutans. Jackie Kennedy is slightly better, as her lilting, sex-phone operator voice was amusing and, as far as I could tell, accurate.

The play in its entirety is a collection of anecdotes, such as the time Jackie Kennedy was prepared to give Indian dignitaries frames made out of cow leather. Also, thanks to Baldrige, Jack Kennedy was the first to serve hard liquor in the White House—only he mistaken served it on Sunday, so every Republican had it out for him. It's stories like these that make Baldrige's tale endearing, accessible, and well worth the price of admission.