A NoHo Arts theatrical review of “Call Me Elizabeth,” written and performed by Kayla Boye and directed by Erin Kraft at this year’s Hollywood Fringe Festival.
“Call Me Elizabeth” is an absolutely flawless piece. An hour spent with the beautiful and charming Elizabeth Taylor in her Beverly Hills Hotel suite in 1961, as she opens up to her future biographer about her life so far. This is before her love affair with Richard Burton, while she was still married to Eddie Fisher. The play begins after Eddie leaves to fly to Vegas for a concert, though her calls repeatedly interrupt her conversation during our time with her. Surely we can see the writing on the wall!
Kayla Boye has created a sort of time machine. A window on another era, a glimpse of a very private veiled life. Elizabeth de Boyles is beautifully dressed in a classic movie star little black dress. Her brushed hair, her flawless makeup and her smile, that deeply fragile fierce smile that only Elizabeth Taylor had. She is captured by her superbly well. Her skin just as porcelain, her voice just as singsong, her manners between flirtatious and refined. There is also a sadness. A resignation, a carefully hidden exhaustion. Her back hurts badly ever since she fell off her horse while shooting “Black Beauty”. After many surgeries and many doctors and treatments, she will never fully recover. The wide variety of painkillers is all that keeps him going and contributes to his lifelong addiction issues.
So this is where we find it. Sipping champagne, taking the occasional pill, answering calls from lawyers and Eddie, and watching his daughter in the pool. She talks and talks and as the champagne and pills kick in a bit, she talks again. Sharing things she knows she shouldn’t, being incredibly charming and warm and funny and sweetly truthful. She never weakens, except when her back has spasms. She is quite Elizabeth. And we long for her to be in our lives again.
The filming of “Cleopatra”, interrupted after weeks of disastrous filming, is about to resume. She told them it would take a million dollars to get her back on that set and they gave it to her, calling her a bluff. So the movie that nearly bankrupted a studio and heralded one of Hollywood’s greatest love stories was days away. And you can feel the electricity in the air when she takes the call telling her that Richard Burton will be playing Mark Antony.
It’s a beautiful piece, skillfully put together from Taylor’s own words. She really had this conversation with a biographer. It’s like watching the destiny of a life turn at some point. When we have all the answers and she has decades ahead of her. Great!
I love solo shows and I particularly like this kind of intimate monologue. Who wouldn’t want to be in that room 60 years ago watching Elizabeth Taylor talk about… anything!?
Kayla Boye’s performance leaves us a bit breathless, so close is her performance to Taylor herself. There is a beautiful presence in her, a weight, something much more than mimicry, closer to reverence, but not sickly at all. Very honest, very true. It’s remarkable and it makes for a really wonderful piece.
Closed June 12
5456 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood, 90046