IT’S A 21ST CENTURY BETTE DAVIS ! Love Those Electronic Cigarettes…. and The Play She Smokes ‘Em In !

| August 9, 2013 | Comments (0)

Bette Davis = Cigarettes. Plain and simple. That’s the way I have always seen her, through her weeds. Her signature smoke, ofcoure, was the double light-up in “Now, Voyager” when her leading man, Paul Henreid, put the match to a pair of fags and slowly passed one to Bette as he gazed into her huge peepers. Their collective in-hales and ex-hales were so copious and so totally compelling, filling the screen with clouds of smoke to the point of near-fade-out, that my burning desire to see them kiss was lost in the ecstasy of movie’s most romantic smoke-break.

I wonder if any Davis afficionado has ever done a serious study of her on-screen “smoke time”, an analysis of “smoke-minutes”, a ratio, say, where 20:120 describes the number of cancer sticks – 20 – consumed in film real time – 120 minutes. In this case, Bette would be smoking  one butt every six minutes which seems to be an under-count if you watch “All About Eve”  where she never seems to be without a cigarette, often chain-smoking as she argues with Gary Merrill (wait till you hear what she says about HIM in “Me and  Jezebel “!).

But I do digress. I only mention cigarettes because this wonderful play about Bette’s “one or two nights in Connecticut” features our diva puffing away on – hold your breath, fans – an e-cigarette ! Yes, I said it ! Bette Davis is smoking electronic cigarettes. I’m still wracking my brain for the right “mots justes” that Bette would employ to describe this hi-tech travesty !

Oh, did I mention the name of the play in question? Yes I did, but let me say it again : “Me and Jezebel” now playing at  the Snapple Theater Center at 210 West 50th Street.

The plot, a true story, revolves around Liz Fuller’s invitation – at Davis’s suggestion ! – to put the star up for a night or two during a New York City hotel strike. The two nights stretch into a week, then two weeks, then on and on as the Fullers’ famous guest becomes increasingly demanding and impossible, but somehow  ever more charming and endearing, especially to Liz’s seven year-old son who clings to Davis’s every word and even begins to imitate her.

Most remarkable and probably a first in the theater is the person of Elizabeth Fuller, the author of the book “Me and Jezebel” on which the play is based. Fuller not only wrote the book about Davis’s famous stay with her, but she actually stars, along with the inimitable Kelly Moore as Davis, in the play. This is straight from the horse’s mouth, if I may mix a metaphor. Liz Fuller lends a highly believable vitality to her role because every word she says is true and she lived it herself !

There are only three performances a week of this not-to-be-missed play, Wednesday and Thursday at 8 PM and Saturday at 5 PM. I rather liked the idiosyncratic timing of Saturday at 5 PM. You’re out of the theater before 7 PM with the whole evening before you.

“Me and Jezebel”  appeals to all audiences. It has something for young and old, gay and straight. It is camp and funny, but also has its serious, compassionate side that shows us, above all, that this famous “monstre sacre” was a dear person. If you don’t believe me, get yourself over to the Snapple Theater and see for yourself !

 

 

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