Jodi Stevens Headlines as Sue Mengers in John Logan’s I’ll Eat You Last at Music Theatre of Connecticut
By: Ellis Nassour
John Logan’s biting, sometimes brutal eavesdrop into an evening at the home of Hollywood’s pioneering first female mega agent, I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers, will star Jodi Stevens as the much-feared and, at least to a coterie of, much-loved powerbroker. It runs February 24-March 5 at Norwalk’s Music Theatre of Connecticut (MTC) (509 Westport Avenue), celebrating its 30th Anniversary season.
The show plays in the state-of-the-art 110-seat Main Stage theatre, which boasts it’s “Connecticut’s most intimate theatre setting.”
Stevens starred on Broadway in Urban Cowboy and Jekyll and Hyde. Off-Broadway and regional credits include Annie, Dracula: The Musical, Hairspray, Legally Blonde, Sweeney Todd, and opposite husband Scott Bryce, My Way and Love Letters at MTC and White Heron Theatre. She’s portrayed Marlene Dietrich in three productions: Noel Coward and Friends, the premiere of Barry Manilow’s Harmony, and Dietrich and Chevalier.
Mengers had a meteoric rise in Hollywood, rising quickly from agency secretary to powerful, revengeful, tart-tongued, and witheringly acidic agent in a then-male dominated field. In her early life, in Nazi Germany, she was kicked to the curb as “a chubby Jewish girl.” She escaped, arriving in New York in the mid-50s. She learned English watching movies. All those films had her in a constant dreamscape about Hollywood. During the run of Funny Girl, she met and became friends with Streisand. When Streisand went to Hollywood, Mengers followed.
In I’ll Eat You Last, with Hollywood changing and clients deserting her, Mengers awaits her A-list dinner guest with a cigarette in one hand, a joint in the other. She sits forlornly in her glamorous Beverly Hills home hoping for a call from Streisand, who’s just fired her. In the long wait, she dishes hot gossip and dirty secrets.
Mengers never brushed off the rough edges, but that didn’t stop her from ruling regally over Hollywood. Her clients were the Who’s Who of tinseltown: Beatty, Cher, Dunaway, Anjelica Huston, Ali MacGraw, Nicholson, Burt Reynolds, and assorted moguls and movers and shakers from M-G-M to San Quentin. Every guest had to be famous.
In Logan’s play, Stevens, channeling mean Mengers, says “Honey, my own mother couldn’t get in here if she was standing outside in the rain!”
In a 60 Minutes interview, Mengers told Mike Wallace, “I was a little fish — a little nothing making a hundred and thirty-five dollars a week. I liked the way the agents lived: the expense accounts, the cars. I thought, ‘What they do isn’t that hard. It beats typing.'”
When she rose to agent, mentored by one of the firm’s top honchnos, she lifted his Rolodex and left for greener pastures. She took on the big boys, landing clients by threats, deception, cajoling, promises, guilt, and doggedness. She was once described as “a bulldog with charm.”
Mengers, who suffered chronic illnesses and, in the end, tiny strokes, passed in 2011 at age 79.
Jodi Stevens is a three-time Connecticut Critics Circle nominee – including for Featured Actress in MTC’s Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike.
Logan is a three-time Oscar-nominated screenwriter and playwright. Plays include Red, winner of six Tonys including Best Play; screenplays include Skyfall, Sweeney Todd, The Aviator, and Gladiator. TV credits include Sex and the City.
Kevin Connors, MTC’s co-founder and executive artistic director, directs.
MTC is recipient of the Connecticut Critics’ Circle’s highest honor, the Tom Killen Memorial Award for Outstanding Contribution to Connecticut Professional Theatre. Its 30th Anniversary season is supported in part by Connecticut’s Department of Economic and Community Development and The Hour/Hearst Connecticut Media Group.
Tickets for I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers are $30-$55 and available online at www.musictheatreofct.com or by phone at (203) 454-3883.