For a one person, one act play to capture and hold and audiences attention, the play must possess brilliant writing, spectacular acting, focused direction, carefully constructed intonations and inflections, and an actor or actress who can carry off the piece with expertise and make it feel intimate and exciting.
Such is the case with the Unicorn Theatre’s most recent production, “I’ll Eat You Last,” featuring Donna Thomason as Sue Mengers, a Hollywood agent most notably associated with Barbra Streisand. The show takes place in Mengers’ living room of her Hollywood mansion as she awaits a telephone call from Barbra Streisand, after learning that morning that she had been fired as Streisand’s agent. Even though the name dropping of Barbra Streisand keeps the audiences interest alive, it’s the story of how Mengers clawed her way up from a German immigrant who spoke no English to Hollywood’s top theatrical agent.
Her client list reads like a Who’s Who of Hollywood royalty of days past, and an intimate conversation with Sue Mengers reveals the most shocking and appalling secrets of the Hollywood elite, so the newest production at Kansas City’s Unicorn Theatre, “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers,” brings the dirt on the Hollywood royals.
“I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers,” a play, written by John Logan and directed by Sidonie Garrett features Donna Thomason as Sue Mengers in a one-woman show, The production runs Dec. 11-28 at Kansas City’s Unicorn Theatre.
Not enough can be said of Garrett and Thomason’s work in this play. From the looks of the set Garrett devised an appropriate setting for the main character to rant and rave for almost an hour and a half, nonstop. As the lights come up, Thomason sits on her divan, drink in hand, and enlightens the audience of what is supposed to happen at her house that evening– a dinner party of the Hollywood elite.
As soon as Thomason opens her mouth, she embodies the character of Sue Mengers with a bold passion and a twinkle in her eye. From her opening sentence through her final exit, Thomason creates the larger-than-life persona of Mengers. For an hour and a half, Thomason speaks fast and nonstop about her life, her successes, and her disappointments, while explaining to the audience how she got such recognition in her lifetime.
Thomason gives a superb performance as a strong-willed and determined Sue Mengers. Her character development guides the audience very carefully and allows them to understand the joy and the heartbreak she is experiencing while awaiting a phone call from Ms. Streisand. Thomason understands the comedy of the piece, and brings it to the forefront at every opportune moment. Throughout the show, the audience laughs and giggles and chuckles at her witty dialogue, her inflections, her intonations, and her facial expressions. Thomason has mastered character. It shows.
The play, “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers” is a one-woman play about a ground-breaking Hollywood agent. The production opened Saturday, Dec.13 on the Jerome Stage of the Unicorn Theatre in mid-town Kansas City, Missouri. The play had several previews before the official opening.
Mengers’ clients included such names as Barbra Streisand, Faye Dunaway, Burt Reynolds, Ali MacGraw, Gene Hackman, Cher, Candice Bergen, Ryan O’Neal, Nick Nolte, Mike Nichols, Gore Vidal, Bob Fosse and even more. According to the play, for more than 20 years, Sue Mengers’ clients were the biggest names in show business, and her dinner parties were the envy of Hollywood.
Logan’s play provides a look back at a young, shy, immigrant girl who wanted to be noticed on the playground and learned, at an early age, that she needed to be forceful, bold, and dynamic. That lesson served her as she clawed her way upward, first in New York, and then in Hollywood. She recants stories of how she landed some big paychecks and star vehicles for Hollywood’s fledgling actors and help guide their careers.
“Now, you’re invited into her glamorous Beverly Hills home for an evening of dish, dirty secrets and all the inside showbiz details only Sue can tell you. Warning: This play contains profanity from a hard-drinking, pot-smoking catty Hollywood gossip, and, Sue had the scoop on all of her “twinkly” clients,” a Unicorn spokesman said.
“I’ll Eat You Last,” comes with rave reviews as posted in a Unicorn press release and promises to be 80 minutes of sheer delight and biting reevaluations about how the star system works and how stars are made. Critics cheered Logan’s script and being insightful and enlightening.
Like many rags to riches stories, the road to the top is long and arduous, as is the decline after reaching and enjoying the summit. Logan’s play puts in the laughs, struggles, heartbreak, and tenderness of Mengers’ life, her climb, and the beginning of the descent.
The Unicorn’s production comes with the highest recommendations. Thomason’s performance brings the audience to its feet and then to hers as her tour-de-force performance deserves all the accolades that can be bestowed.
“I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers” is a Season Extra on Unicorn Theatre’s Jerome Stage located at 3828 Main Street, Kansas City, MO 64111. The show runs Dec. 11– 28. Previews are Dec. 11 and 12. Opening Night is Saturday, Dec. 13.
Performances run Friday and Saturday at 8:30 p.m. and Sunday at 3:30 pm. Two Thursday performances are at 8 p.m. on Dec. 11 and 18. The week of Christmas, there will be no performances on Dec. 24 and 25, but there will be a Saturday matinee on Dec. 27 at 3:30 p.m., the Unicorn said. For those on a tight budget and feel unable to afford a ticket, they may “Pay What U Can” at 8 p.m. performances on Dec. 17, 22, and 23, because art is for everyone, the Unicorn maintains.
Tickets are now on sale. Tickets are not included in season ticket packages and must be purchased separately. Call 816-531-7529, ext. 10, go online to the theatre website or buy in person at the box office located at 3828 Main St., Kansas City, MO 64111. Special discounts are available for seniors (65+), students, and patrons under age 30.