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Renee Taylor on Dieting and Other Habits

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reneeRenee Taylor has had the life I might have had if my acting career had been laced with the brio her personality; my father had been more of a gambler instead of a Sunday craps shooter and my mother had encouraged instead of competed with me when singing  Clair de Lune at the piano. With the completely opposite set of life circumstances, Renee Taylor pushed through her Bklyn/Bronx Wexler family of origin and in fact used it and its effect on her to become the charming, humorous comedienne and writer that she still is today.

Her new one woman show, My Life On A Diet ( based on her book  My Life on a Diet: Confessions of a Hollywood Diet Junkie) at Theatre at St Clement’s written with husband, and creative partner for 53 years, Joe Bologna, is sheer delight. When she first appears on Harry Feiner’s stage set which resembles a 99- cent store version of Joan Rivers’ rococo living room, you wouldn’t be so far off if you thought it was Dame Edna Everage.  Taylor is a sturdy eighty- something with if not little girl voice, a soft spoken New Yorkease, that compels you to move forward in your chair so as not to miss a moment of her story craft and superb comic timing.

Sitting comfortably at her desk, Ms. Taylor starts to recount the diets of her life, slicing them into her yearnings for stardom, her mostly good and some bad luck and her commitment to being full alive. The visual projections of her diets and of her family and friends help open the story of her life. We hear about her endless auditions, Marilyn Monroe’s insecurities, Lee at the Studio, and a myriad of survival jobs, one becoming the signature piece which helped launch her television career. Taylor is an inventive creature with a deep ability to laugh and respect herself at the same time. When she can’t brag personally, she mentions people who admired her work, like Jack Paar, Perry Como and Barbara Streisand and all of America who watched her as Fran Drescher’s mom on The Nanny. Every story leads back to her life- long fat issues and her attempts at resolving the problem with ideas as bizarre as drinking only Cristal champagne or abstaining from everything except autumn air.

Her husband Joe Bolgona died in 2017. Together they wrote and acted in wonderful comedies like Lovers and Other Strangers. By her re-telling of their sweet courtship, they surely were really Made For Each Other.

Clearly, Ms.Taylor doesn’t have to prove a thing. She’s already there. But she is such a gifted artist with a great willingness to share her infectious spirit. Altogether, this makes the story of a disappearing show biz world and a young woman’s dream to be part of it, a must for anyone who wants to think back on the past and laugh in the present.


Written by nancykoan

July 22, 2018 at 3:09 am

Let’s Hear it for the Irish– Man in the Moon

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Man in the Moon20140914_001441

The Irish deserve their reputation for being the greatest storytellers. And an actor who spits is usually very, very good.

From what could have been a simpering complaint tale about the growth of suicides in his hometown, Pearse Elliott has created a wonderfully layered picture of one man’s life on the council estates of Belfast and the demons and angels that fill his imaginative head.
As played by the most amazing, Ciaran Nolan as Sean Doran , we are on a trip — travelling through smelly bogs, to a day in the life of a roaring lion and his pride to a movie premiere with Brad Pitt—all of this in only an hour and fifteen. This one man’s show produced by the fantastic Brassneck Theatre Company and directed by Tony Devlin, swept them away in Edinburgh and will do the same for you if you can get over the thought that you might not understand the accent.

Mr. Nolan is such a gifted performer that even the colloquialism don’t concern you because his energy and physicality convey everything you need to know to understand this guy whose lost so many pals to suicide. His self-effacing portrayal of the loser of course belies the power of the true survivor…the one whose left to tell the story. And boy is he funny. He has all the moves – from a wee bit of a lost soul named Hatchet who survived the ‘troubles, to an itchy guy who dispatches bad tips on the horses, to a young gay kid from pampered Boulder.. When he attends the wrong wake for a different Soupy Campbell than the one he thought had suicided and turns into Elvis, you think “ shit, I hope he comes to my funeral.”
This is Belfast…this is today…with all the sense of loss that a perpetually poetic country can offer. There is something really noble about having terrible experiences with love and jobs; you build if not character, an absurdist view that this author has in pounds.

If I have one bone to pick, it’s the tie in of all the suicides…I wanted to understand that they were economic based with a dash of war wounds. But when he throws in a Gazelle…a jogger from the upper classes who takes his fancy and who also perishes by her own hand, I am set adrift. Obviously, people don’t off themselves just because of a laundry list and rich people are miserable as well as poor. But something about the landscape Mr. Elliot created in the top of the play felt right for keeping it in the realm of the caste system… in this case, council estates.

But that’s a small criticism for an otherwise wonderful production. Mr. Elliot is a feminist whether he knows it or not and yet the story of the online monster who shows up at the Sean’s door, is as awful as any man on the prowl but as played by multi-accented Mr. Nolan, much, much funnier.

All involved have wonderful credits. Go to the show, read the playbill. Or just take my word. This is a beautiful piece of art.

Written by nancykoan

September 14, 2014 at 4:20 am

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Graham Chapman speaks out

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A Liar’s Autobiography , is a strangely wonderful film adventure – a dolby 3d animated auto- biography of a dead man. According to the credits, no medium was used, only the good sense of Month Python’s Graham Chapman who recorded his voice two years before his early death at forty-eight.

Chapman, alcoholic and gay, straddled life’s highway, sometimes having his way with the world through his comic genius, and at other points, burdened with alcoholism and zealous sexual activity. As one person said upon leaving the theatre, “I’ve never heard so many versions of Sit On My Face before, referring to a musical extravaganza of this sexually liberating tune.

The film uses fourteen different animation groups to tell Graham’s story, from early childhood, through Eton, Cambridge and his success as a Python. The fantastic array of animation is aided by the real life voices of Michael Palin, Terry Jones, John Cleese and Terry Gillian all creating a breathing testament to this man’s life. Cameron Diaz also does a goofy Austrian Freud voice.

Bill Jones, Jeff Simpson and Ben Timlett direct and know their subject well. It’s a wonderful homage to the one Python whose career did not extend past being with the group. It’s often funny and quite adult and I particularly liked the Scarborough segment. Towards the end, the storyline seemed a bit dense, but perhaps that’s how his life was at the end. Still, it’s a magical mystery tour which does honor to his  memory.

Written by nancykoan

October 19, 2012 at 4:30 am