In the past week, I had the pleasure of seeing two quite divergent theatrical productions: My Life on a Diet, Renée Taylor’s one-woman show, and The Waves, adapted from Virginia Woolf’s novel as a chamber musical for the Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College.
Renée Taylor (aka Sylvia Fine of The Nanny sitcom) and her autobiographical romp (co-written with her husband, the late, great Joe Bologna) are comic gold, a delicious summer time treat (all pun). A stellar career trajectory as told through the many diets RT has attempted in a constant struggle to be thin for show biz, makes for a good dramatic device and a very fun time. The anecdotes from her family life, the roster of diets and the performers she’s met and worked with that emerge along the way are all gems in their own right. The audience, as guests in her leopard bedecked stage set, was roaring. If you’re reading this and you don’t know who Hedy Lamarr or Rita Hayworth or Elaine May were/are, go see this show asap. If you’re reading this and you do know who they were/are, go see this show asap.
I attended through a NOIAW special event, which included a Meet/Greet + dinner with Ms. Taylor, a very generous gesture on her part. I stopped by the restaurant and she couldn’t have been lovelier, which comes through in our photo together.
The Waves could not have been a more different kind of theatrical excursion. A cast of six accomplished and electrifying actors portray six siblings over the course of many years and rites of passage (boarding school, college – that is, Cambridge). The music, musical direction and the pianist are quite extraordinary. I felt the music and the actors’ phenomenal vocal delivery washing over me, literally, as waves. In the score, I heard hints of phrases from Les Misérables and reminiscences of the masterful, constant jazz piano background music of Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. I truly liked the less-is-more use of projection — a simple beach/water horizon which illuminated and changed color and form very subtly, but absolutely created the work’s title in setting and ambiance.
MLOAD and The Waves were apropos to see in high summer and I highly recommend them both.
“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” – Plato as quoted by WQXR.org
photos in order of appearance by B. McDonough; Powerhouse Theater at Vassar College; B. McDonough; A. McDonough