Regional Reviews: San Francisco
If You Ever Leave Me ... I'm Going With You!
Also see Richard's review of The Producers
Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna have brought their show, If You Ever Leave Me ... I'm Going With You!, to the Marine Memorial Theatre for a two week engagement. They started this autobiographical comedy at the Canon Theatre in Beverly Hills several years ago, and it was a big success. The Oscar and Emmy nominated couple have taken the one act presentation to various cities, including a limited engagement at the Cort Theatre in New York. The two famous actors/writers will appeal to those who like to hear about their life together over the past 37 years.
I have been a fan of both of these individuals ever since I saw their film Lovers and Other Strangers in 1970. Over the years, the veteran actors have appeared in many films on the big and small screens. They have also written and starred in several plays, including the recent Bermuda Triangle which I saw in Los Angeles a couple of years ago.
If You Leave Me ... is a retrospective the couple wrote, and it encompasses scenes from the plays they have written and acted in together. The title comes from a moment in their life when the long married couple had one of those serious arguments that regularly occurred. Renee wanted Joe out of the house and as Joe was starting to pack and leave she said "If you ever leave me, I'm going with you."
Joe and Renee met through television host Merv Griffin on whose show Taylor was a regular during the mid 1960s. They were married after a three month whirlwind romance. In this production, they reenact a scene from several days before the big wedding. Joe gives a very long monologue about why he couldn't marry Taylor while Renee just listens calmly. She finally says very coolly, "Did you and your father pick up your tuxes?" to which Joe replies, "Yeah," and storms off the stage.
Joe is from a strong Italian Catholic family while Renee is a buxom Jewish blonde. The families believed it was like mixing oil and water and the families would never mix. However, Merv decided to throw the wedding party on his daytime show and both sides of the family came and had a very good time. The couple shows the party on a big screen onstage and there are Italian and Jewish people dancing together. Since that time, the couple have had four more weddings just to renew their vows. All have been in different religions, and these are shown on the screen also.
The chemistry of the two on stage is very good. Taylor still has an hourglass figure, sheathed in a blue sequined gown, and Joe looks elegant in a sharp blue suit. They play off each other to perfection. Joe is a refined straight man and he sets things up for Taylor who plays the ditzy comedienne. It is sort of like the old Burns and Allen routine, but on a more intelligent level. During the 90 minute play, they change costumes to play some of their favorite scenes from their Oscar nominated Lovers and Other Strangers and the Emmy Award winning Acts of Love and Other Comedies plus a hilarious scene from their recent Bermuda Triangle. Renee even does a nice rendition of Gus Kahn and Walter Donaldson's "It Had to be You" toward the end of the show.
One of the loveliest scenes is when Bologna plays a sickly 80 year old Florida retiree attempting to seduce Taylor who plays an ailing octogenarian in his apartment. They end up comparing all of their health problems. It is a delightful sketch with great timing between the two. There is also a delightful scene when Joe talks to his "invisible" son who is thinking of divorcing his wife after 10 years of marriage. He tells the son to not go looking for happiness, "it'll only make you miserable."
It's a charming evening, low key and pleasantly funny. If You Ever Leave Me ... I'm Going With You! run through March 16 at the Marine Memorial Theatre, 609 Sutter Street, San Francisco. For tickets call 877-771-6900 or visit www.tickets.com For more information visit www.marinesmemorialtheatre.com