by Gerry Roe
Don’t be put off by the title—it’s just one of the jokes Sue Mengers shares with the audience (consisting of people clustered around her living room). The subtitle of the play is “A Chat with Sue Mengers” which is really a chat by Sue Mengers. The woman likes to talk, even to us, so she delivers a ninety-minute monologue telling us about her life and her career as the first woman to become a power agent in Hollywood.
Sue Mengers cannot be played by just anyone. The Old Creamery production stars Marquetta Senters, an Old Creamery favorite, in a part played on Broadway by Bette Midler; those of us who missed that performance will find Marquetta Senters a more than satisfactory successor to the divine Miss M. In fact, although I’m a fan of Bette Midler, I can’t imagine a more impressive Sue Mengers than Senters. As she always does, Senters uses her formidable talent to give us an indelible portrait of the character, warts and all.
Now Sue Mengers is not exactly a household name in Iowa, so it might be appropriate to provide a bit of background information. She was born in Germany before Hitler’s attempt to conquer the world was fully developed. Her parents wisely emigrated to America, settling in Utica, New York. Her father found work as a traveling salesman for a couple of years, until he committed suicide, and Sue and her mother moved to New York City where Sue learned English from the movies. Eventually, she decided she had to become an actress but when that dream proved unreachable she found another entry into show business. She found work as a receptionist at the William Morris agency and eventually became a full-fledged agent at another talent agency. Her first client was Julie Harris. After Mengers moved to Los Angeles her clients included some of Hollywood’s brightest stars including Candice Bergen, Peter Bogdanovich, Michael Caine, Faye Dunaway, Gene Hackman, Mike Nichols, Ryan and Tatum O’Neal, Burt Reynolds, Cybill Shepherd, and Barbra Streisand. Through persistence and sheer will, Mengers became one of Hollywood’s most successful and powerful agents.
I guarantee you that Senters as Sue Mengers describes her background and her career with far more excitement and entertainment than the paragraph above. She doesn’t just enumerate her famous clients, she also dishes gossip about them and about many other Hollywood names. All without ever leaving her couch. If that sounds like a pretty static play, you really need to see what Senters does with it. Senters and her director, David Q. Combs, create as lively a theatre experience as you can expect or even hope for. This production is a delight.
One caution: the play contains “adult language,” whatever that means, but profanity and obscenities are a part of the script. If language offends you, then this play is not for you (and obviously it is not a play for children), but if you appreciate acting at its best, go see Marquetta Senters in this play. Her performance will stay with you for a very long time.
I’ll Eat You Last runs through July 17 at Old Creamery Theatre’s Studio Stage.