He’s a (pushy) lady
BRECKENRIDGE – My, how brushes with stardom change people. Especially Jeremy Cole, the Backstage Theatre’s artistic director. He jumped out of the director’s chair and into a long, green velvet dress, black heels and red-painted fingernails for the theater’s production of “Me and Jezebel” last season, and after a hiatus, he just can’t resist bringing the show back for a one-night encore at the Silverthorne Pavilion. And oh, what a figure he has. Cole fills the role of Bette Davis in the Backstage’s show by applying layer after layer of makeup, until the mirror doesn’t reflect Cole, but a 40s-era diva. The play portrays playwright Elizabeth Fuller’s true-life account of how Davis came to her home for dinner and ended up staying a month. Playwright Elizabeth Fuller revised the script for the current Australian production of the show, and tonight’s performance includes those updates.”There are a dozen or so added funny lines – several slamming guess who? Joan Crawford – so Kelly Renoux and I added in the new stuff to keep it fresh and add some extra hyucks for those who saw it before,” Cole said.Renoux plays Fuller, whose life turns upside-down when the diva crashes into her humble abode. Fuller worships Davis and risks her marriage to bond with the star. “God, how I loved her style, her flair, her bitchiness,” Renoux says of Davis. Soon, Renoux transforms from bubbly fan to a blonde imitation of the silver-screen queen. Watching Renoux’s metamorphosis is equally as entertaining as watching Cole’s transformation. Part of her wants to tell Davis to shape up or ship out, and the other part longs to live with Davis forever. “Here I was, Bette Davis’ soul mate, only she didn’t realize it on a conscious level,” she says. She tries to show Davis a life beyond screen credits, Academy awards and stretch limos, but when she tries – through a Ouija board – the actress balks. Still, the two ultimately affect one another. In addition to depicting a range of emotions – and intentional bad acting – Renoux imitates other characters such as her husband, child, waiter and born-again Christian friend, alternating between narrating the story and becoming a part of it. Cole personifies the diva who thrives on high tension and conflict with subtle humor and dramatic flair. Few actors could have pulled off his body language, tone and hysterical mannerisms. When he first appears on stage, the surprise of seeing him in long locks, heavy makeup and perfectly painted eyebrows overwhelms audiences with laughter. The amusement steadily increases as he (she) rants about her resentments toward Joan Crawford and Paul Newman – all with the pompous air of a star. It’s difficult to say who’s funnier, Cole or his character. But either way, he/she captivates audiences and keeps the laughs rolling. If you’re looking for a light, fun night out – with Monday morning water cooler talk potential – don’t miss “Me and Jezebel.” After all, Cole works hard for this play. “It’s pretty horrifying,” he wrote in an e-mail. “At this point, it’s taking me over an hour and a half to do my makeup. Yikes.” Kimberly Nicoletti can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 245, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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