New York Post
â€˜Iâ€™ll Eat You Lastâ€™ is a sassy and sure Bette
By ELISABETH VINCENTELLI
Last Updated: 12:58 PM, April 25, 2013
Posted: 10:52 PM, April 24, 2013
For her first Broadway appearance since â€œClams on the Half Shellâ€ 38 years ago, Bette Midler split the difference between playing it safe and taking a risk.
Instead of trotting out her hits â€” like her old accomplice Barry Manilow did a couple of months ago â€” she chose the onewoman play â€œIâ€™ll Eat You Last.â€ But while Midler doesnâ€™t sing a note here, sheâ€™s dressed to kill while pumping out profane one-liners. And sheâ€™s playing another Divine Miss M: Sue Mengers, the late Hollywood agent known for her bulging Rolodex, wild parties and biting wit â€” mud is flung tonight!
With brassy quips and zingers, Bette Midler inhabits the role of Sue Mengers, superagent to the stars, in this one-woman show â€” Midlerâ€™s first return to Broadway since the 1970s.
This isnâ€™t much of a departure from the outsize stage persona Midler created for herself over the decades, but so what? â€œIâ€™ll Eat You Lastâ€ is wickedly entertaining precisely because performer and material are so perfectly matched.
As Mengers, she spends the entire play plopped down on a couch, rearranging the throw pillows and lighting up joints. That she manages to hold our attention while doing it says a lot about the actressâ€™ charisma, as well as Joe Mantelloâ€™s smoothdirection.
Sheâ€™s just been informed by her biggest clientâ€™s lawyers that sheâ€™s been dumped. Now sheâ€™s waiting for a phone call from the star herself â€” Barbra Streisand.
To kill time, Mengers fills us in on her life, from her fleeing the Nazis at age 8 to her apprenticeship at William Morris and all the way to her conquest of Hollywood. She loved the movies but quickly figured out she belonged behind the scenes: â€œWhy be a king when you can be a kingmaker?â€ No wonder she became one of the first so-called superagents.
Here we meet her as her influence is waning in a changing Tinseltown. This brassy, outspoken broad doesnâ€™t fare well in the new world of â€œpseudo-Ivy-League-whiz-kid-boy-agents-slash-rentboys.â€
Sheâ€™s defiantly old-school Hollywood, devoted to stars and crazy parties fueled by pot and bitchy gossip â€” â€œthe lube by which this town slips it in.â€
Logan â€” who met Mengers in 2008, three years before her death â€” sticks to a conventional template, but fills it with killer quips and hysterical set pieces. Midler may not warble, but Mengersâ€™ brazen bluff on behalf of Faye Dunaway and her visit to Sissy Spacekâ€™s farm â€œin a mythical land called Virginiaâ€ belong on her Greatest Hits list.
The star is in total control throughout, multiplying each â€œSâ€ into a slithering hiss (â€œJulie Harrissssssâ€) and duplicating the overdramatic staccato Mengers adopted after learning English from Warner Bros. flicks.
Midlerâ€™s said to be insecure about her acting, but she has nothing to be anxious about. Letâ€™s hope this show is just the first step in her reconquest of the New York stage.