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By: Sandi Durell
Imagine Margo Channing, Baby Jane, and Jezebel coming to stay at your New England cottage, dilapidated though it may have been! This amazing true story actually happened to Elizabeth Fuller in 1985 when she was a star struck writer and young mother, after Bette had dinner at her home with a mutual friend.
Ms. Fuller published a book in 1992 about this experience and it was adapted to the stage, having made its way in theaters worldwide. Bette-isims are now flying full speed at the Snapple Theatre here in NYC with Elizabeth Fuller as herself and Kelly Moore, well bedecked as the petulant BD.
Although Ms. Fuller is not an actress, and many times delivers her dialogue like a recitation, she has the genuineness that makes it work as she takes on the roles of her holy roller friend Grace, her ‘Ol’ Ma’ granny who first introduced Elizabeth to Bette in films, her disgruntled husband and even her 4 year old son Christopher who starts out as a pain in the butt brat and by the conclusion is not only best friends with Bette, but spouting Bette-isims.
Ms. Davis, working on her biography, was allegedly caught up in the New York hotel strike and, needing a quiet place to write, called Elizabeth to ask if she could stay a couple of days. How exciting! And the next day Bette shows up in a chauffeur driven limo, a second car following with all her luggage. As she enters she utters “What a (hesitation) delightful cottage.”
Watching Mr. Moore’s portrayal, as he invokes Bette’s mannerisms and vocal cadence, is a remarkable and engaging pleasure. He’s honed the character, after 17 years of playing the role from Key West to Kansas City, Connecticut to Sydney, into an extension of his inner core – the toss of her head, the lighting of a cigarette, the gruff laugh as she insinuates herself into and takes over Elizabeth’s home life.
Another day, and another, goes by and Bette is still wandering about the cottage, throwing her one-liners with aplomb, her hatred and jealousy of Crawford and Dunaway, her Hollywood tales about Gone With the Wind, and the hurtful portrayal of Bette by her daughter in her book My Mother’s Keeper, while Elizabeth waits on her hand and foot, hanging on Bette’s every word, as her own dream has become reality. Bette Davis in my home – Bette Davis with me and Christopher at McDonald’s – Bette Davis at the beach – Bette Davis complaining about the mattress in her room – Bette! Bette! Bette! Whilst husband John becomes more angered as the days turn into weeks – actually 4 weeks and 2 days, Elizabeth sides more and more with Bette against John.
Ah, yes, those Bette Davis eyes and bitchiness all come through as she utters the isims – – “old age ain’t no place for sissies,” or reveals that “Bogart was a lousy lay.” There are loads of fun-filled moments and dialogue and a revealing underlying sensitivity to the Hollywood Queen. And, finally, the hotel strike ends and the house-guest who thrilled and chilled is ready to leave. Lessons have been taught and learned in this two act enjoyable portrayal directed by Mark S. Graham.
*Photo Carol Rosegg
Snapple Theatre, 210 West 50 St., NC www.meandjezebeltheplay.com