July 29, 2014

Theater Review: Bitchslap! Is a Hit! Through July 1

 

PHOTO BY CHRIS HUME

Theater Review: Bitchslap! Is a Hit! Through July 1

Michael Taylor Gray as Joan Crawford; Therese McLaughlin as gossip columnist Hedda Hopper and the inimitable C. Stephen Foster as Bette Davis in the world premiere of Bitchslap! at the Macha Theatre/Fiim in Hollywood now through June 17.

If your idea of a good time is watching Mildred Pierce, then savoring the antics of All About Eve, and topping off your evening with the double trouble of Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, then Bitchslap! is for you!

The world premiere play at the Macha Theatre in Hollywood chronicles the bitter, decades-long feud between celluloid divas Bette Davis and Joan Crawford that turned them into the hottest properties in Tinsel town.

According to the PR notes, from Bette Davis' first Oscar win in 1935 to Joan Crawford's death in 1977, these two Hollywood divas waged a bitter personal feud competing for acting roles, top billing, Academy Awards and men.

Written by Canadian writer and performer Darrin Hagen from reams of quotes, Bitchslap! is a comedic take on the long-running dispute with a memorable behind-the-scenes look at the star's double billing in the 1962 classic Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

In a wonderfully cheerful performance by Therese McLaughlin, reigning gossip queen Hedda Hopper pumped the devious divas for salacious and juicy information, ultimately publishing and profiting from her notes on Davis' notorious one-liners and Crawford's sly maneuvering.

In a burlesque and comic attempt to maintain her dignity and moral superiority, Michael Taylor Gray brings Mommy Dearest Joan Crawford eerily to life, complete with her giant shoulder pads, tortured hairdo and wire hangers. Yet she is a tall drink of cool Pepsi in the actresses' heated feud for Hollywood superiority.

But, without question, C. Stephen Foster is hands-down, no-questions-asked truly hilarious as Bette Davis. Foster's fabulous portrayal is worth the entire price of admission and one of the single best performances in Los Angeles.

Foster literally channels the notorious screen diva, complete with her petulant facial expressions, dangerous cigarette movements and halting, quirky speech patterns.

Combine that with some of Hollywood's most vicious verbal zingers lobbed back and forth across the stage and you have a great show.

The play is lovingly directed and produced by Odalys Nanin, who manages to keep these over-the-top divas under control for maximum comic effect.

This really is a must-see becauseBitchslap! has a great time conjuring up Hollywood's lurid and colorful past, when real screen bitches reigned supreme.

Macha Theatre/Films was nominated by Broadway World as one of the Best 99 seat theaters in Los Angeles.

Plan to arrive early and grab some dinner at Hugo's next door. There is early-bird lot parking available or a public lot across the street. Bitchslap! limited run May 19 through July 1. (dark June 1 and 2). Friday, Saturday, 8 p.m.; Sunday 7, p.m.; Sunday Matinees June 3 and 17. Admission: $35.

Tickets/Reservations: (323) 960-7724 or www.plays411.com/bitchslap; Group Sales (323) 314-6332. Macha Theatre/Films, 1107 N. Kings Road West Hollywood, CA, 90069. www.machatheatre.org.