Recalling an age of highly crafted public personas, the new Broadway play "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers" reflects on a Hollywood era when movie deals were made over dinner parties instead of smartphones.
Bette Midler stars as the rough-talking, pot-smoking superagent Sue Mengers in a much-anticipated production that opened Wednesday at the Booth Theatre.
Mengers, the mother of a male-dominated business, repped some of the top stars in the '70s, including Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Burt Reynolds and Nick Nolte.
Tony-winner John Logan ("Red") penned the one-woman show set in Mengers' Beverly Hills living room during a darker workday with Midler-as-Mengers dishing on her A-list clients.
"I'll Eat You Last" marks Midler's return to the stage after a 33-year absence. The first reviews from New York are in, and so far, critics are hungry for more.
Times theater critic Charles McNulty wrote that Milder's stage presence is "galvanizing" in a role that "barely requires her to move anything but her mouth." He added that the script skims the surface of Mengers's complex character, but Midler charms audiences into "enjoying this experience for what it is: a Broadway bonbon."
Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum writes that the play "flows gracefully," flitting from Hollywood wisdom to gossip, and that under Joe Mantello's "dynamic direction" Midler manages to make "lounging and smoking look both lazy and athletic."
Charles Isherwood of the New York Times praised Midler's "lusciously entertaining" performance in a "delectable soufflé" of a show. He added while Logan wrote a "tangy and funny" script, only Midler could captivate an audience "from first joke to last toke."
The Chicago Tribune's Chris Jones writes that Midler "gives good dish" and the audience eats it up like "a star-struck caterer used to listening at the door." And for those who can afford an invite to the party, watching an "outsize character playing an outsize character" makes for a "delightful evening."