Theater Review: BETTE DAVIS AINT FOR SISSIES (live streaming)

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by Tony Frankel on July 15, 2020

in Theater-International,Virtual


“Stardust” was the name for what made Bette Davis shine. With playwright Jessica Sherr’s solo recreation of more than big eyes and flouncing cigarettes, the magic is back to cast a second spell as Sherr presents a new 80-minute version directed for the small screen by Karen Carpenter. Each of the six performances from July 15 to September 24, 2020, will be live. This hit international show (which was reviewed by Stage and Cinema in Chicago) reimagines as much as recreates the cinema idol’s feisty hunger and jerky grace. As such, Bette Davis Ain’t for Sissies (paraphrasing her famous remark about old age) is catnip for the cognoscenti. It’s a time-capsule treasure for once and future fans of the Tinsel Town icon who feuded with Joan Crawford and incarnated survival at any cost in All About Eve and Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

But that’s the latter-day Davis, when, less high in her strut, the survivor diva could join fellow star Olivia de Havilland in the self-mockery of Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte. No, look-alike Sherr presents the starlet turned supernova, present at her own creation: This is Bette at 31, having won the only Oscars she’d get. On the early evening of February 29, 1940, Davis has come home early and empty-handed from the Academy Awards show (honoring 1939, Hollywood’s most productive year, artistically and economically). This lover of the limelight refuses to witness the coronation of English-actress-turned-Southern belle Vivien Leigh for Gone with the Wind and the christening of a young Judy Garland in The Wizard of Oz. (Besides, she has get up early the next day to play the spitfire Empress Carlota in Juarez, a Hapsburg princess who holds her own opposite Paul Muni in the title role.)

Regaling us with the plucky bravado that sets this New England firebrand apart from the anointed screen goddesses. Sherr — with flashing eyes and clipped delivery — incarnates the rebel with a cause who defied Warner Brothers to demand script control and better billing. In phone calls to her over-protective mother Ruthie we see Bette as a proud daughter of the theater who holds Hollywood’s dream factories in proper disregard even as she feeds its fantasies.

Also expect juicy name-dropping and gossipy tidbits involving Errol Flynn, her bosom buddy de Havilland, and mentor and director William Wyler. “Fasten your seat belts! It’s going to be a bumpy night.”

photos courtesy of Jessica Sherr

Betty Davis Ain’t for Sissies
Thursdays at 7:30pm EST thru December 17, 2020
for tickets ($19.50, including all service fees), visit Bette

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