Regional Reviews: Florida - Southern
I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers
While Bette Midler played Sue Mengers, super-agent, on Broadway, one of South Florida's most prolific actresses, Laura Turnbull, does not "play" Mengers, but has her own take on her. No impersonation, this, but a full-bodied, foul-mouthed yet lovable yenta of whom the audience is honored to be in the presence.
Sue Mengers was, in her own words, interested in only two things: movies and movie stars. Who isn't? Gossip, dish is what we are privy to in this glorious discourse and I, for one, could not stop laughing throughout. I wish the audience had. A typical Florida Sunday matinee. A full house who, while not reacting throughout the show, managed to hobble to a unanimous standing ovation. To Turnbull's credit, she never "pushed" and, obviously, from the rising of the non-breathers at the finale, won them over.
She didn't do it alone. While technically a one-woman show (anathema to many in the area), Ms. Turnbull is guided by one of our most thrillingly talented directors, Michael Leeds. An uneducated onlooker might say, "what's to direct? She sits on her sofa the whole time!" What Leeds has done is draw out every ounce of Turnbull's warmth, humor and likeability and, sorry for the cliché, makes it appear that she is talking to you, and only to you. The tokes on the cigarette or marijuana, the sipping of the booze, the dainty tasting of what looks like Raisinets, the (almost) seduction of the audience member she enjoins to "serve" her on occasion, Turnbull and Leeds are in full control.
A couch, a cocktail table, an area rug, and a few lovely odds and ends compose Mengers' living room as designed by Lyle Baskin. A colossal asset is the backdrop of L.A. that gets dimmer as the evening progresses, courtesy of the masterful lighting director Jeff Quinn.
A sensational performance by Laura Turnbull who seems to be having as much fun as her audience, and a brilliant guiding hand by Michael Leeds. When I opened this review I queried "is it a play?" Get yourselves to Gablestage and see for yourselves. You won't be disappointed. I'm still laughing!
I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers at Gablestage Theatre, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables, through August 30, 2015. For tickets or more information, call 305-445-1119 or visit www.gablestage.org.
-- Jeffrey Bruce