By: Iris Wiener
March 18, 2019: “My name is Renée and I am a food tramp. That is someone who eats around,” says Renée Taylor at the start of her touchingly hilarious memoir-on-stage, My Life on a Diet. The clever actress and writer, most well-known for playing Fran’s mother on the 90s sitcom The Nanny,goes on to use food and her love/hate relationship with it as a roadmap through a life filled with curves, calories and kindness.
The dynamic Taylor brought her delectable treat of a show to Bellport’s The Gateway March 15th and 16th, launching a national tour that will surely delight audiences from all walks of life.From coming in third-place in The Daily News’ Chubby Child Contest and her first diet at the age of 11, to acting classes with Marilyn Monroe and 53 years of marriage to Joe Bologna, Taylor pieces together an exciting, yet somehow relatable life. Her warmth and hubris are endearing from the opening notes of the show, during which audiences are gifted with Taylor borrowing from “The Frim Fram Sauce”: “Don’t want pork chops and bacon / that won’t awaken / my appetite inside.”
Diet was written by Taylor and Bologna, no strangers to collaboration; the team first turned heads when they penned the 1968 Broadway comedy Lovers and Other Strangers. The piece was directed by Bologna before he passed away last year, though most direction seems to come from Taylor’s personality itself- she literally reads from pages of her own story, including snapshots projected on a large screen to enhance her colorful tales. (Michael Redman artfully designed said projections.) At 85 (and she admits, she can play older), she shares her many ups and downs, both in her weight and in her career. Her stories range from performing with Jack Parr on Tonight and getting her big break when Jerry Lewis wrote a role for her in The Errand Boy, to being told by her college dean that her weight had sabotaged a production of Romeo and Juliet and being fired from her first role (as an extra) in a film.
As Taylor tells her stories, perfectly peppered with celebrity names from her past (Marilyn Monroe, Barbra Streisand and Hugh Hefner, to name a few), she aligns them with her diet-of-the-moment, however off-kilter, that shaped the memory; Lou Costello’s Protein Diet and the Long Island Hadassah Diet among them. She sits among leopard prints (and an actual stuffed leopard), photographs and creamy, colossal drapes, clothed in a gold sequined dress befit a star who has lived a veritable life and deserves the opportunity to share every second of it. Taylor is as genuine as her diets were ludicrous, making for incredibly sincere, laugh-out-loud, theatrical gold.D
For more information about the tour of My Life on a Diet on Tour, visit www.mylifeonadietplay.com.
Photography: Jeremy Daniel taken on July 18, 2018 in NYC.