An Evening with Betsy O’Connell
A big bravo to the singular cast in this one woman production.
Rosanne Limeres is the infamous and fictional aging actress, Betsy O’Connell. This comedic parody turns the audience into a laugh factory that embraces this humorously real character with her acerbic wit and scathing remarks. Her time in the spotlight faded, Betsy marches on with unabashed comments on politics, men, sex and money. Now showing at the wonderful and the Lankershim Arts Center in North Hollywood, an evening with Betsy O’Connell is an evening well spent.
After spending a few hours with this charming, yet sarcastic actress (Betsy not Rosanne), it is not surprising that this venue is overflowing with audience members. Betsy is an older B actress that shares with us her beginnings from highs and lows of a long 60-year career. This fading star is a bit bitter, but mostly proud of her tenacity and humor to survive this long. Sixty years? She must have had work done on her; she looks way too young and spry. In fact, Betsy does confirm that she like others in Hollywood has had many parts pulled and tucked.
What does all these years in the ‘biz’ do for you? Well, as Betsy explains, starting out as a child star does not automatically yield a key to success. Thinking it was her time to make it big, she played in a television sitcom replacement for one summer, yes, she was the star in “Oh Betsy” and she thought her young life would change forever. However, like most Hollywood dreams, when the show was cancelled no one came calling until young adulthood. Moving forward, Betsy delved into her roles with enthusiasm even if her instincts told her not to take certain parts. She measures her success by the star on Hollywood Boulevard, the sandwich named after her at Canters and of course the Golden Globe she won for a part in the movie, “Black Sun.” Unfortunately, in one of her alcoholic stupors, she accidently had the words black son tattooed across her stomach. This part of the show was one of my favorites for the pure nonsensical possibility of it.
Never to be the shy one, Betsy delicately romps across the sparse stage bitching and mocking some of today’s realities.
The selfies drive her crazy, the self-absorbed younger generation drives her nuts, the weirdness of internet dating, the endless reboot of old movie franchises (of course she was in many), and the pain of loneliness trying to be resolved in a bottle. This is the star from yesteryear that we love.
Despite her three marriages and financial windfalls, the good years are behind her. She traveled first class and always slept in 5 star hotels. The best tables were reserved for her and her guest at all the trendy spots and she boasts many, many famous lovers. Oh Betsy had a ball when the going was good. When things started to fade, she didn’t fold. Oh no, with her trademark smile and enthusiasm, she ventured forward. The Japanese market always idolized her since her childhood success with the “Oh Betsy” show and they wanted her. So when they called she went. Of course she was less than happy to host their ridiculous game shows, but as she says, it was money. After all, a girl needs to make a living. It was a riot to see the outlandish skirt with hanging Japanese beer bottles swaying as she romps across the stage. We all roared when she recited a few lines in Japanese for their commercials with over the top facial expressions. Rosanne nails this part.
Winding down about herself, Betsy reflects on what she might have missed. However, she appears to have no regrets despite her becoming the lonely cat lady on the block. Being alone with three cats is not the worst part; it’s being unrecognizable on the street as the famous actress from long ago. She sums it up quite nicely, “I have become what I always dreaded. F… my life. I’m glad I’ll be dead soon.”
The music and lyrics of all the songs were placed in just the right places. They absolutely complemented the tone of the entire production. They are clever and hilarious. Bob Wayne is the musical director and also co-director with Mr. Heffler. Mr. Ira Heffler who also wrote and produced this one woman show has a resume of successful films such as “Lucky 13.” He presents this character with wit, charm and self-absorption that really highlights his skill as a successful writer. Only once did I think the direction needed to wait for a specific laugh, but it did not take away from the enveloping way he presented Betsy. The music, a live piano behind the scenes, was perfect. Rosanne has a lovely voice and can definitely sing and act at the same time, some actors cannot. Her resume of success in theater and commercials is very well deserved. She is perfect as Betsy O’Connell. Her portrayal of an aging Hollywood persona was so realistic that I would not be surprised to see Betsy shopping at Gelson’s someday. In terms of the staging, it was intended to be simple, and it was; a table, a chair, a bag of sweets, some alcohol, an old projector (that doesn’t work) and a screen.
This was absolutely the right amount of props for this show. Betsy is the star, not the staging.
This production is a hoot. It should be seen by everyone with nostalgic memories of television and films of the 1950s, 60s and 70s. After all, didn’t “Happy Days,” “Leave it To Beaver” and the original “Planet of the Apes” influence our thinking for adulthood? However, to be under 55 years old and get all the jokes, nuances and historical references would be an unlikely stretch.
Playing through November 27, 2016 on Sunday evenings, contact www.Betsy.brownpapertickets.com or www.facebook.com/Betsy1945. The historic Lankershim Arts Center is located at 5108 Lankershim Blvd. NoHo 91601.