Regional Reviews: Connecticut & the Berkshires
Also see Fred's review of Napoli, Brooklyn
Stevens has shone in past productions of Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike and Gypsy, but she really comes into her own in I'll Eat You Last, providing an outstanding performance and a lot of laughs in her portrayal of Sue Mengers. Mengers was one of the biggest showbiz agents Hollywood has ever seen, but some have questioned whether she was really a worthy enough subject to have an entire show built around her. Stevens keeps the audience riveted throughout I'll Eat You Last at Music Theatre of Connecticut, and one practically hangs on her every word and gesture.
The curtain is up when we enter the theatre and we are immediately confronted by Sue Mengers' plush living room, luxuriously designed by Jordan Janota. The crux of Logan's play is that Mengers is waiting by the phone to receive a call from her top client, Barbra Streisand, knowing full well that she is about to be fired by Streisand. While Mengers waits for the call, she entertains the audience with an endless supply of Hollywood gossip, as she gets increasingly drunk and stoned.
Midler had the audience in hysterics from her first words, and Mengers' sometimes rude attitude and raunchy language meshed perfectly with Midler's own star persona. Of course, seeing this play in regional theatre is an entirely different experience and the play will rise or fall on who is cast. At the performance I attended, here wasn't that immediate laughter in Stevens' first moments onstage. But, as the play went on, she slowly hooked the audience into the dizzying and frequently hilarious life of Sue Mengers through the almost non-stop barrage of Hollywood stories. Indeed, Jodi Stevens truly makes one care about what it is like to be a talent agent to the stars, and the character's anecdotes about her clients and, even more so, the tales of how she managed to get so high on the Hollywood ladder become deeply fascinating.
Jodi Stevens' triumphant take on this character is aided immeasurably by director Kevin Connors, who manages to wring all the bite and delirious pleasure from John Logan's script, and provides Stevens with the perfect platform to shine. Indeed, by the end of the production, this actress holds the audience in the palm of her hand and, believe me, there isn't anywhere else you would rather be.
In addition to the gorgeous set design, costume designer Diane Vanderkroef and lighting designer Michael Blagys' work is just about perfectthe stream of late 1970s/early 1980s pop songs played before the show and during the intermission are a delight and put one squarely in the land in which Sue Mengers thrived. The only downside to Music Theatre of Connecticut's luscious production is that it is only playing through March 5th. But, if you can make it in time to see this show, it will most definitely be worth the trip.
I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers continues performances at Music Theatre of Connecticut in Norwalk, CT through March 5, 2017. For tickets, please visit www.musictheatreofct.com or call the box office at 203-454-3883.