Bette Midler is the kind of performer who can do just about
anything in show-biz. She is known best
as a singer, but her film work has been fantastic. She knows how to express
emotion and reach over the footlights. Her
latest event—and it is an event- is a one-person show with a provocative
title: “I'll Eat You Last—A Chat with Sue Mengers.” Written by respected
writer John Logan, directed by award-winning Joe Mantello, Midler is Mengers,
the well-known powerful talent agent, who reigned in Hollywood during the 1970s.
Her clients were the top echelon actors; she would have nothing to do with
anyone else. Not even her own mother standing in the rain! Even though Midler
does a great job portraying her, it is that fact or so many more that did not
endear me to the character.
The play lives up to its front curtain, which proclaims:
THIS PLAY CONTAINS PROFANITY, ALCOHOL COSUMPTION, DRUG USE AND GOSSIP. As Sue Mengers, Midler, draped in a
sumptuous sea blue caftan (Ann Roth), barefoot, and very blond, sips wine while
smoking cigarettes and “tokes,” all at the same time! She was addicted to marijuana. Mengers, and therefore Midler, (for 80 minutes)
never leaves her salmon-colored sofa located in her magnificent home designed
by Scott Pask and lit by Hugh Vanstone.
The home she tells us once belonged to Zsa Zsa Gabo—poor Zsa Zsa!
A child of Holocaust survivors, who escaped early from
Germany, Mengers has a difficult beginning in this country. Mengers' father committed suicide in Utica,
NY—that's a fact upon which she does not comment. Mengers does not seem unhappy
about that. However, in the most interesting part of this very slight story,
she does discuss how hard it was for her to integrate in school. Her parents
did not speak English and neither did she. The persistence she used to find her
way is admirable and became part of her life of negotiation. She was married to a Belgian director who was
not successful and died in 2011.
When we meet her in 1981, she has been fired by her best
friend, Barbra Streisand, well… by Streisand's lawyers, and is deeply hurt. She
is also anticipating a dinner party which will take place in her house in a
short while and emphatically assures us we are not invited. Well, look at you,
she yells, as we in the audience laugh.
If you are a Bette Midler fan or if you are a fervent fan of
film and movie stars, then ‘I'll Eat
You Last “ is for you. Only
through June 30 at the Booth Theatre on Broadway.