MY LIFE ON A DIET: Show Review by Robin Gorman Newman

Renee Taylor is a gift.  An iconic performer who is a great example of a life well-lived — and still going strong — and her new one woman show MY LIFE ON A DIET, an autobiographical comedy based on her memoir, is a non-stop riotous ride that is both entertaining and endearing.

The New York premiere of the show, written by Ms. Taylor and her late husband Joseph Bologna (and originally directed by Mr. Bologna), is having an impressive New York premiere Off Broadway at Theatre at St. Clement’s, and due to popular and critical acclaim, has been extended through September 2.

An Academy Award-nominated and Emmy Award-winning writer and actress, Ms. Taylor, 85, looks back on both her personal life and memorable roles in Hollywood and on Broadway. She is not afraid to dish dishy stories…whether of  meeting husband Joe and gorging on his mother’s Italian cooking or trying to be svelte and gorgeous by eating frozen grapes and bathing dipped in Vaseline, as per the advice of her friend Marilyn Monroe, who she met in Lee Strasberg’s acting class.  Ms. Taylor shares many fabulous insider tales of  Hollywood legends including Marlon Brando, Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Barbra Streisand (another dear friend), Joan Crawford, etc. She even visited Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion and relates a hysterical story from that encounter.  On the heartfelt end, she throws in stories of childhood and particularly her mom, Frieda, who relished tagging along with Ms. Taylor when there was a celebrity meeting opportunity.

Smartly woven among these tales is a veritable feast of diets she either attempted to pursue as a self-described “diet junkie” or comically conjured up….in an ongoing quest to be her best physical self…particularly when competing for roles….and looking for love.  Ms. Taylor refers to herself as a “food tramp” — “someone who eats around.”

I’ve been a fan of Ms. Taylor since her Emmy-nominated television role as Sylvia Fine (Fran Drescher’s mom) on The Nanny and honestly had no clue of the expansiveness of her career.  She shares clips of television and film appearances when she was starting out, including a series of hooker roles and a bit role with Jerry Lewis, and you realize you are truly in the presence of comedic royalty.

Renée Taylor in “My Life on a Diet.”
Taken July 18, 2018, Photo by Jeremy Daniel

Swankily dressed and sitting at a desk strewn with leopard print items, she sets the stage from the onset that she will read from her book…and despite the lack of theatricality, we are happy to bear witness to her delicious, dead-on one-liner delivery and to feel like a part of her inner circle for a fast-moving, non-caloric despite the sweetness, 90 minutes.

MY LIFE ON A DIET has a set by Harry Feiner, lighting by Stefanie Risk, sound by Jay Risk, and projections designed by Michael Redman, which contributed much to the show.

Ms. Taylor and Mr. Bologna were married 53 years, and MY LIFE ON A DIET marks their final collaboration.  One can only imagine the life they built together, both on and off the stage, and the enduring bond of laughter they shared over the decades…..which we get a taste of here.

Ms. Taylor cut a mean figure back in the day…and she still does.