Everyone loves juicy secrets, especially when the rich and famous are involved. There’s a reason that tabloids are practically a national guilty pleasure. Hollywood’s wheels have always been greased with gossip and backroom deals. The only things that change are the names. The one-woman show “I’ll Eat You Last,” now playing at GableStage, pulls back the curtains on a pre-Kardashian world and proves there’s still plenty of dirt to spill.
As is typical at GableStage, “I’ll Eat You Last” is fresh from the New York stage, running off-Broadway in 2013, and comes from an acclaimed playwright, Pulitzer Prize winner John Logan. The show is a (one-sided) conversation with Sue Mengers, a real-life Hollywood agent who was one of the first women to make it big in the business side of the movie industry in the 1950s. For over two decades, she was a force to be reckoned with, representing such iconic performers as Barbra Streisand, Bob Fosse and Burt Reynolds.
The show finds Mengers in her Beverly Hills mansion in 1981 – a lovely, intimate set from GableStage veteran Lyle Baskin – just as her star power is beginning to fade. Over the course of the next 90 minutes, the agent gives the audience a peek into her world, telling stories and dispensing advice about how to survive in a cutthroat profession.
“I’ll Eat You Last” hints at more being beneath the surface, but the play never quite gets under Mengers’s skin. Chain smoking her way through an almost absurd amount of joints and cigarettes, Laura Turnbull is an engagingly crass gossip who recounts anecdotes of her character’s stable of celebrity clients. She’s at her liveliest spilling details of her greatest conquests and throwing little digs at the Hollywood elite.
Sometimes, however, Turnbull falls into the trap of talking at her audience, rather than to them. It’s unclear why she’s decided to share her secrets and, besides her increased inebriation, what reaction she expects to receive from her confidantes. When she allows emotion and insecurity to show in the latter portion of the play, it seems arbitrary. Despite spending the entire play painting vivid pictures of the secrets of others, her own hidden feelings are merely sketched out, lacking enough depth to feel truly justified.
At the top of the show, Mengers tells the audience that she’s preparing to host a dinner party. But what she proceeds to dish out is only enough to whet the appetite. “I’ll Eat You Last” feels like an appetizer course, rather than the main meal – fun, but not quite substantial enough to fully satisfy.
If You Go
“I’ll Eat You Last”
Where: GableStage, 1200 Anastasia Avenue, Coral Gables
When: 8 p.m. Thursdays and Fridays, 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. Saturdays, 2 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sundays through Aug. 30
Cost: $40-55 ($15 student tickets are available on Thursday and Sunday nights)
For more information, call 305-445-1119 or visit gablestage.org
Featured image courtesy GablesStage/George Schiavone