Sue Mengers was described as a “legend” by the many people who knew her. The talent agent was known around Hollywood for her brutally honest demeanor and her smart, business-oriented mind. She worked for numerous actors and filmmakers over many decades, completely submerged in the movie biz. So it should come as no surprise that a play would be made about such a prominent and interesting figure.
What is surprising is that the show – titled “I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers” – is only comprised of one person: Mengers. Sioux City’s Shot in the Dark Productions has decided to give its own take on the one-act play.
Directed by Adam Gonshorowski, “I’ll Eat You Last” stars Leslie Werden as the aforementioned Hollywood talent agent whose mind is full of personal and behind-the-scenes stories of America’s favorite celebrities from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. The play centers around Mengers who is speaking directly to the audience about her unique life experiences based on her career.
The one-person format has proved to be a challenge for Gonshorowski, who said that it has been difficult guiding a monologue performance and tracking an entire show with only one person on stage.
“It’s a different type of challenge than, let’s say, doing a musical with 25 people or doing a smaller play with six to eight people – it’s a totally different concept,” he said. “It’s one person onstage by themselves having to be captivating and without having a lot of dramatic movement.”
The show, he added, excels in its writing, particularly through its use of making the audience the “second character” in a sense. Each person seated in the Evelyn Larson Theatre is treated like a guest in Mengers’ home.
“So I think it’s a little more immersive in that sense,” said Gonshorowski. “I think Shot in the Dark is the perfect theater for it. It’s her and 48 other people within 20 feet of each other and just experiencing this.”
In the play, Mengers reveals that she’s worked for Burt Reynolds, Gene Hackman, Barbra Streisand and many other celebs. Mengers, who died in 2011 at the age of 79, was naturally a private person. The play, however, gives the audience a brief insight into the life of Mengers, as well as an era of Hollywood that has long since passed.
“She’s just telling stories,” said Gonshorowski. “That’s what’s really cool about it. She talks about her philosophy of being an agent and her rules on that and how she throws dinner parties. There are certain stories that come out, like how Gene Hackman got his role in ‘The French Connection.’ Big, overarching stories about her and her friend Barbra Streisand and how that relationship sort of deteriorated.”
For Gonshorowski, “I’ll Eat You Last” has been a show that he’s wanted to do for a very long. Coming from a film background and attending a film school in California, he finds the content of the play and its central character interesting – it’s a treat for him.
And he hopes it will be a treat for audiences as well.
“People go to movies, people watch movies, watch ‘Entertainment Tonight’ and understand that glamor and Kardashian-level of celebrity,” said Gonshorowski. “This is the level behind it that no one knows about – the business of the business.”