Idol worship has 30 day expiration notice
Me & Jezebel, currently playing at the Actors' Warehouse through July 23, had me thinking right away: If Ry Cooder, my rock & roll icon and guitar superhero, asked if he could stay with me for an extended period of time, what would I say?
From a boiling point of shoulder-to-shoulder companionship to boiled down theatrics of living with the queen of overdone dramatics, author and screenwriter Elizabeth Fuller recreates her true story of life with Academy Award-winning actress, Bette Davis, when she moved into Fuller's small, quaint Connecticut cottage for 30 days during the summer of 1985.
The story is adapted from Elizabeth Fuller's personal memoir, Me and Jezebel. What begins as a friendly gesture of helping Ms. Davis with lodging due to a union strike of hotel workers in New York turns into an ordeal of Bette Davis's (Jan Cohen) taking-for-granted grand and not so grand assumptions. As the play's lead character, Elizabeth Fuller (Kristin Mercer), recounts a cavalcade of maudlin, memorable experiences and movie star delights and how they impact her household, life, and world.
In 1985, Ms. Davis is reeling from the recent publication of the book, My Mother's Keeper, by her daughter, B.D.Hyman, which makes Davis look less than motherly. Ms. Davis finds refuge in the home of Elizabeth and John Fuller, new acquaintances through a mutual friend: "Just for a night," she tells Elizabeth over the phone. On Davis's arrival, the stay morphs to "three or four days" and it ultimately becomes a month.
Being adapted from a book, the screenplay could have easily been converted into a one-woman show depicting the life of a Walter Mitty-like homemaker jumping at the opportunity for her 15 seconds of fame. In Laura's case, the imaginary hero comes to life, warts and all.
This first-person look into the lives of upscale Connecticut was delightfully accentuated with humorous observations from Elizabeth about how Ms. Davis turned her world upside down and about wonderful recollections of past times Elizabeth spent with her grandmother, Old Ma, watching and re-watching Ms. Davis in Jezebel with Elizabeth acting out scenes from the film.
Much applause to the Actors' Warehouse technical team, including AW Light & Sound Technician, Josephine Jones. The AW staff set a perfect stage in the beautiful, new home of the AW with high ceilings, cozy seating, and new sound curtains offering excellent audio and a visually appealing backdrop with the play dialogue resonating throughout the hall.
Thanks to Set Designer, Sabrina Jones, and Stage Manager, Susan Washington, the audience is propelled back to the 1980s and the small world of Elizabeth Fuller. Several times during the show I had to snap out of the feeling that I was in Ms. Fuller's kitchen and she was talking to me.
Actors' Warehouse Guest Director, Deborah Dickey, kept the play moving forward nicely by featuring many quirky personality traits of Ms. Davis including inappropriate language such as occasional f-bombs. Like many older people, I'm sure you might know Bette Davis certainly had 'colorful opinions' to share with anyone who would listen. There were great moments in the play, like when Ms. Davis took a liking to and befriended 4-year-old Christopher and they had adult like discussions of important and unimportant life events.
Ms. Dickey closed the play nicely with the exit of Ms. Davis from the Connecticut cottage coinciding with Elizabeth's reconnecting with her grandmother and remembering time they spent together including writing fan mail to Bette Davis. These revelations led to humorous personality juxtapositions on her part finding herself acting out, styling herself in the likes of the movie star.
Bringing the world back to reality like only a wise, seasoned actress could do trying to stabilize and re-ground Elizabeth back into her own reality, Ms. Davis smartly points out at the end to Elizabeth Fuller that that people create their own identity: "You are you, and I am me. There is only one Betty Davis and only one of you Elizabeth."
Hmmm . . . I have had many thoughts about what Ry Cooder and I would talk about over beers. Of course I'm thinking we would be long lost friends agreeing and laughing at every smart ass statement we make, talking about music and the state of the world. Then again, from all I've read, Ryland P. Cooder hates to talk about his music . . . I wonder what RPC thinks of Tom Waits?
The Actor's Warehouse Production of ME & JEZEBEL continues through July 23 with show on various days, and time. FOLLOW THIS LINK for more information.