Former Hollywood super agent Sue Mengers is having the last laugh, thanks to her comedic portrayal by Bette Midler.
"I'll Eat You Last," is a one-woman show starring Bette Midler as famous Hollywood agent Sue Mengers. It opened Wednesday night at the Booth Theater on Broadway. John Logan, the author of the Tony Award-winning play "Red," wrote "I'll Eat You Last." Joe Mantello is the director of the show, in which Midler basically performs the entire piece from the couch in Mengers fake living room.
Mengers died in 2011, but left behind A-list clients, or "Twinklies" as she liked to call them, such as Barbra Streisand, Gene Hackman, Candice Bergen, Michael Caine and Burt Reynolds, among others. Mengers was known for throwing fabulous dinner parties where only the famous could score a chair at the table.
The Associated Press described the play as a "straightforward biography of the rise of a chubby Jewish girl with a heavy German accent who grew up in New York and turned herself into a mover and shaker in Hollywood."
So what are the critics saying about Midler's return to Broadway? Initial reviews have mostly been quite favorable, especially when it comes to Midler's performance. The script and direction, on the other hand, have drawn mixed opinions.
Charles Isherwood of the New York Times calls "I'll Eat You Last" "a delectable soufflé of a solo show." He says that Midler "gives the most lusciously entertaining performance of the Broadway season." Pretty high praise.
Los Angeles Times' Charles McNulty said "I'll Eat Your Last" is "a show that just wants to provoke some mildly mischievous laughs." McNulty is disappointed by the 85-minute monologue not delving more deeply into Mengers' character or her difficult past, referring to her German Jewish family's rough transition to America and the suicide of Mengers' father. McNulty clearly thought the script left much to be desired, saying that it "often feels like a back issue of People magazine" and "has the depth of a magazine feature."
Michael Musto of the Village Voice wrote that "Midler shines," and is "incomparable," as she "showers us not just with dirty lines and dishy stories, but with insight as to how an agent deals with her clients, what she must do to provide a proper face to the world for them, and what it's like to become yesterday's hot potatoes."
Elysa Garder of USA Today, the only publication on our list that ranks on a digestible if not simplified scale, gave the play three-and-a-half stars out of four, referring to Midler's performance as "deliciously acerbic." Gardner also praised Mantello's direction as "pitch-perfect."
Jeremy Gerard of Bloomberg referred to the script as "about 10 minutes of funny in 85 minutes of maudlin." Gerard had higher praise for the set design, saying the accouterments "are fabulous in their verisimilitude." He continued, "But even as gifted a director as Joe Mantello can't make us care much about this character," and that those who know Midler "will be disappointed by this weightless valedictory, for there's no swan, and no song."
Chris Jones, theater critic for the Chicago Tribune offered this: "Midler, as you might imagine, gives good dish. Superlative dish, even. There will be some for whom 90 minutes in the presence of an outsize character playing an outsize character will be a most delightful evening, leaving ample time for post-show martinis. That's the appeal of this pain-free bit of cannibalism."
Contactmusic.com said "Midler shines" and is "the perfect actress to bring the quippy, somewhat cynical, occasionally foul-mouthed Mengers back to life."