An uneasy sistership
• • Born in December 1898 and afflicted with polio that left her with a limp, BEVERLY WEST did not have the career drive her sister MAE WEST [1893 — 1980] had — — nor was she able to excel in dancing and athletics due to polio. Since MAE WEST did financially support her sister, she employed BEVERLY as her errand girl, messenger, lackey, and understudy. In her entire career, MAE WEST only missed one performance (after breaking her ankle), therefore, BEVERLY never took the starring role in a Broadway production.
• • Growing up in her sister's shadow, BEVERLY became an alcoholic and took pleasure in annoying and frustrating MAE by being late to performances, by not rehearsing enough, by being impulsive, and by doing whatever her head told her to do. Angry, hurt, childish, status conscious, frustrated, belligerent, loud, and an out-of-control exhibitionist when drunk, BEVERLY was quite prepared to seize the spotlight whenever possible.
• • When young, BEVERLY was much prettier than MAE. But MAE got her nose job first and alcoholism would quickly ravage BEVERLY's youthful beauty. The sisters had a very testy relationship. There was always tension between them. Except for one photo during Mae’s trial [April 1930], Beverly always looked away from Mae in photo sessions. MAE never forgave BEVERLY for the drunken spectacle she created in the theatre lobby during the Bridgeport try-outs of "The Drag" [January 1927]. BEVERLY never forgave MAE for all the ways she used her and bossed her around. However, since BEVERLY depended on MAE's financial support, there would always be an indisputable family tie along with a nervous imbalance between them.
• • In reality, BEVERLY was an actress who did get a radio gig doing Mae West impersonations — — and she did follow Mae to Hollywood (not having other options). The sisters remained loyal to each other (in their fashion) and wary of each other. But they were never close.
• • This is why in ACT II, Scene 5 BEVERLY is shown reliving her successful audition TO HERSELF or AN UNSEEN AUDIENCE instead of to MAE, whose approval she is prepared NOT to get.
• • THE SHOCK OF RECOGNITION MOMENT — — MAE surprises BEVERLY (and herself!) by showing her true appreciation of BEVERLY's performance. BEVERLY is so stunned to be appreciated that she can only stare at MAE. Deliberately, it is the SHOCK and the RECOGNTION that is dramatized (vs a cosy reconciliation). When MAE WEST says, "C'mere, kiddo" the sisters do not embrace nor touch — — they only seem as if they might, creating tension by the distance.
• • "COURTING MAE WEST" opens at 6 o'clock on Saturday night July 19, 2008 at the Algonquin Theatre [East 24th Street and Park Avenue South].
• • "COURTING MAE WEST" — — showtimes
• • July 19th, 2008 — — 6:00 PM
• • July 20th, 2008 — — 2:00 PM matinee
• • July 21st, 2008 — — 6:00 PM
• • July 22nd, 2008 — — 9:00 PM
• • Tickets to "COURTING MAE WEST" are $18 per adult.
• • Theatermania.com sells the tickets — — http://www.theatermania.com/content/show.cfm/show/144297
• • Questions? Phone 212-779-3051.
• • The play is 95 minutes.
• • Get ready to come up and see Mae West, Texas Guinan, and the gang onstage in mid-July 2008.
Courting Mae West
• • Photo: Mae West • • with family circa 1935 • •