Woman Before A Glass
Jermyn Street Theatre
Lanie Robertson’s fine one-woman play on Peggy Guggenheim is a feast for intelligent audiences wanting to celebrate Guggenheim’s extraordinary life. The charismatic performer, Judy Rosenblatt, plays the generous, witty, loud-mouthed, self-mocking Guggenheim with brilliance. Robertson’s script and Rosenblatt’s performance offer an acute insight in to the collector who saved ‘decadent art’ from the Nazis and brought it to the USA. Guggenheim was the lover of Max Ernst, Samuel Beckett and she promoted Jackson Pollock and Pablo Picasso.
In a tribute to Guggenheim’s huge influence on the 20th century art world, Robertson’s script gives a fine introduction to a complex and complicated figure. The form of the play is in three short acts but it is really more of a soirée where we, the audience, are Guggenheim’s guests. Director Austin Pendleton has found a clever way of making this dense script shine on the tiny Jermyn Street Theatre stage.
One-person shows are difficult to pull off but Rosenblatt engages her audience completely for 90 minutes. With her relaxed and seemingly nonchalant style, she seduces the viewer. Her gift is to portray Guggenheim with satirical charm and empathy. The script reveals a radical who defies conventions in both her personal and professional life and Rosenblatt seamlessly synthesizes the two. As a result, Guggenheim emerges as a saviour of the genius and radical artistic ‘Jewish’ imagination that Hitler wanted to annihilate. To fully appreciate this work, it helps to know something of Guggenheim’s life and times but audiences, who may know nothing, will surely now turn to Guggenheim’s own scandalous memoirs.
Julia Pascal © 2018.