BWW Review: ALL ABOUT BETTE at Margo Jones Theatre
At the top of the evening, Ms. Shaw enters the stage dressed as 81-year-old Bette Davis, who is sharing personal stories in a one-woman show, although unsure if she's sharing directly with the live audience or if she's being captured on film. Through a series of flashbacks and film clips (which only the actress can see), we hear about her multiple marriages, complicated family life and tales of old Hollywood that only a diva of her magnitude can casually disclose. In a flash, Shaw transforms several decades back in time to recall the more glamorous Davis famously preserved in film reel history. As she continues to open up to her captive audience, she also takes on the persona of each of the players in her magnificent, spellbinding stories.
For those unfamiliar with Bette Davis' life story, or for those who may only recall seeing one or two of her films, ALL ABOUT BETTE might suffer from a plot that takes many twists and turns, but rarely stays on any path long enough to flesh out a clear story. In fact, for all of the juicy stories that unfold back-to-back, nothing but Morgana Shaw's impressive commitment provides connective tissue between scenes. As the writer continues to iron out the material, the show could vastly improve by finding a through line that ends the first act leaving the audience wanting more. Condensing the micro stories into a one-act piece could also offer a compromise between fans interested in Davis' stories and those less familiar who might otherwise grapple to stay so focused on a stranger without an arch.
This is not to say there isn't excitement on the intimate Margo Jones Stage: Morgana Shaw succeeds in the uphill battle of captivating a crowd without another actor on stage. Her ability not only to memorize two hours worth of dialogue, but to transform herself through multiple decades and varied characters is worthy of high praise. She and director Ryan Mattheu Smith have creatively crafted an endless array of dramatic scenes with barely a prop or scenic element on stage.
After closing in Dallas this weekend, ALL ABOUT BETTE will reopen at Fort Worth's Stage West from August 11th-August 12th, then continue on to the Stone Cottage in Addison from August 18th-August 26th. Tickets and more information can be found at www.aneveningwithbettedavis.com.