PLAYBILL ON OPENING NIGHT: I'll Eat You Last: A Chat With Sue Mengers—I Laughed, You Bette

By Harry Haun
25 Apr 2013

John Logan
Photo by Joseph Marzullo/WENN

That script, which feeds the beast beautifully with buffo jokes that don't let up, is the work of a relative newcomer to Broadway, John Logan, who—in a more somber vein—has already logged up a Tony (for 2010's Red). He was once a guest at one of Sue Mengers' legendary plate-in-laps soirees, and that prompted this play and its constant comedy. "The original draft must have been an hour longer," he guessed. "It was just the process of working with Bette, working with [director] Joe Mantello, that I was able to shave it down to the nub. Bette was always in my head when I was writing it. Joe and I just stalked her for six months to get her to agree to do it—and, thank God, she did. I think she wanted the challenge. She wanted to do something new. She knew Sue. She realized it was going to be an exciting, scary thing to do."

Logan found his lead producer for this at the starting gate of his research: Graydon Carter, the award-winning editor of Vanity Fair, who had never produced a play before but had no hesitancy about throwing in with Arielle Tepper Madover to get the job done. "John dragged me into this—very willingly on my part," he admitted. "I think I was brought along because I was a good friend of Sue's and I could introduce him to Sue's huge circle of friends. He got to know Sue better that way. We did a lot of research for him. Then, I watched John and Joe Mantello put this together, and it was one of the most gratifying experiences of my life. I may just do it again, too."

His newest venture? "I'm writing for Playbill now," he beamed, referring to his Mengers memories, which have some hysterically funny asides in them, that currently run in the Booth program just before the Who's Who in the Cast listings.

Logan, likewise, has other irons in the fire: "On Monday, Joe Mantello and I start a two-week workshop for the Sting musical, The Last Ship. It's about a Newcastle shipyard closing down. And then I'm back to James Bond. I'm writing the next two."

His date for the evening was Ali MacGraw, who figures in one of the more moving episodes in the play. "I think she had a good time." he relayed. "She'd read her part of it. We spent a long time talking about it because obviously it's a featured part of the story, so I wanted to make sure she was comfortable with it. Ali sorta touched something in me, and that's why that part of the play has such emotion to it."

In keeping with Mengers' sense of lavish excess and extravagance, The Russian Tea Room (where all the big-dog agents do their deals—still) unleashed all four floors for the after-parties, but the really knowing guests never ventured beyond the first.