November 22 - November 29, 1995

Houseguest From Hell

B y  J a n a  R i v e r a

EVER NOTICE THAT gaggle of people gathered around the entrance to the Academy Awards ceremony just to catch a 10-second glimpse of a famous movie star?

What is it about being a movie star that suddenly gives a person such status? Why do we care what they're saying, what they're wearing, what they're doing and who they're doing it with? Don't we have our own lives to lead?

About now, you're saying, "not me--I'm not one of those star-struck fools." Well, I'm with you. I've always chuckled at those idiots groveling after the likes of Julia Roberts or Brad Pitt. Get a life!

But let's be honest now. Maybe because she played all those tough, plucky women just like you (or at least just like the you in your dreams), or because he always played the stud who got the girl--just like you (oh yeah).

For me it's Katherine Hepburn. Don't ask me why, but I'd trade this really great, high-paying job at The Weekly for just one cup of coffee with Hepburn.

For writer Elizabeth Fuller, it was Bette Davis.

pix In Spring 1985, Bette Davis, through a mutual friend, ended up at Fuller's house for dinner one night. For Fuller, it was a dream come true--in the beginning. At the end of 30 days, when Davis was still camped out in the guest room, the dream began to fade--but only a little.

Thirty days with her big-screen idol provided Fuller with the basis for her play, Me and Jezebel, now playing at Invisible Theatre. And because her special house guest was the brusque and unsparing Davis, she had plenty to write about.

Fuller's two-person play (herself and Bette) garners a good deal of charm from Fuller's ability to laugh at herself in her awe-struck state. As Davis takes over her Connecticut cottage, Fuller rearranges not only her life, but that of her husband and young son. Upon Davis' demands, she provides a new, firm mattress for the guest bedroom, and acts as main cook and chauffeur for the self-indulgent star.

But she also catches a glimpse here and there of the softness of Bette Davis--the mother hurting from a recent, unflattering biography authored by the star's only daughter; the grandmother who endears herself to Fuller's 4-year-old son, colors with him, and teaches him to say "big fucking deal" while striking his best Bette Davis pose.

Through late-movie nights watching Jezebel and Of Human Bondage the two women form a unique relationship--as close to warm and fuzzy as one could probably get to the acerbic star.

Fuller's writing and Jetti Ames' acting together have captured the essence of Davis--or at least what I'd imagine it to be. In a role that could be so easily over-acted, Ames depicts Davis with a near-perfect I-don't-give-a-shit-what-anybody-thinks air. She has fun with her character, spewing caustic lines such as this one when asked about her regrets over her surly relationship with Joan Crawford: "The only thing I regret is that I didn't get to slap her around more in Baby Jane."

But the play is really Fuller's gig, and cannot survive without a strong performance by the actress portraying her. Donna Davis delivers. She's charmingly deferential beside the old bat. Directly addressing the audience, she unfolds the story with humorous diffidence.

Deborah Dickey directs with a light touch, letting the two women play off one another for an evening full of laughs.

Invisible Theatre's production of Me and Jezebel continues with 8 p.m. performances Tuesday through Saturday (except Thanksgiving day) and at 2 p.m. Sunday through December 3. Tickets are $12 and $14. Invisible Theatre is located at 1400 N. First Ave., at Drachman Street. For reservations and ticket information, call 882-9721.

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November 22 - November 29, 1995

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