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Review: Bette Midler is Infectious in Broadway's 'I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers'

Thompson on Hollywood By James Sims | Thompson on Hollywood April 24, 2013 at 8:00PM

There is a moment in Broadway's "I'll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers," as the one-time Hollywood agent extraordinaire is perched on her upholstered throne in Beverly Hills, that you half expect to see Erich von Stroheim cross the stage with a young William Holden in tow.
Bette Midler

Midler digs beneath her friend’s ball-busting demeanor, finding a misty-eyed Mengers, although these moments of a powerful player appearing verklempt are brief in an otherwise zinger-filled production. Yet, during those pauses, when Mengers truly saw the brutality of a business all to eager to cast aside yesterday's superstar for a younger crop, Midler seamlessly spins the laughs into silence.

While Holden's body doesn't end up floating in pool at "I'll Eat You Last"'s closing scene, the ringing of Menger's unanswered phone—presumably Streisand has finally dialed her former comrade—gives the audience a glimpse at the broken dreams of a once wide-eyed Hollywood fan.

"I'll Eat You Last" may prove too nostalgic and wonky for theatergoers on the lookout for a night of theatrical brevity, but Midler’s personal affection for Mengers is infectious and will provide Hollywood outsiders with enough celebrity dishing to compete with the likes of Perez Hilton and TMZ, though with an actual sense of true love for all things show.

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Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.