Past Reviews

Regional Reviews: San Francisco

Josh Kornbluth Gives a Charismatic Performance in Love & Taxes

Also see Richard's review of The Graduate

San Francisco's monologist Josh Kornbluth has been on a roll during these past few years as one humorous person. Born and raised in New York City by his "communist" parents, he has been a journalist, hosted a radio variety show called The Urban Happiness Radio Hour, eventually moving to the stage, performing in various political comedy revues. He moved to San Francisco and lived in what was called a "garden apartment" without a garden (it was more like a prison basement cell, he relates).

Josh branched out into performing as a full fledged monologist, writing and performing his own material here at the Marsh Theatre. He made his Off Broadway debut in 1992 at the Second Stage Theatre and Actors Playhouse with Red Diaper Baby. His solo performance was a critical and box office success. Josh also completed his first independent film, Haiku Tunnel, based on one of his solo performances, and it was a large success at the Sundance Film Festival. Since then, the film has played various cities to great critical accolades. His most recent triumph was Ben Franklin, Unplugged, which opened in New York in 1999.

Josh opened his new solo performance called Love & Taxes in the small Z Space Studio at the Magic Theatre in San Francisco on June 27th. The San Francisco critics all gave him thumbs up reviews and the theater was sold out every night. He has now moved the show over to the larger Berkeley Rep Trust Theatre and will play there through Sunday, September 14th.

Love & Taxes is a hilarious tale of falling in love while squabbling with the Kafkaesque IRS. Josh tells of his first experience with the IRS while still a young Princeton student filling out the simple Form 1040 and receiving a refund back two years in a row. After starting to earn money and having to fill out a more detail tax form, he somehow just forgot about filing since his left wing parents had told him to believe in people and not the institutions - avoid the system at all cost. Hollywood beckoned the writer to work at Universal and Miramax, based on his story of Red Diaper Baby. The monolithic Hollywood studio system netted him a huge tax bill. He attempted to disentangle himself from the increasing paralyzing effects of indebtedness.

The Kafkaesque life of the hapless character threatens his new found love life, his professional life and his fiscal and psychological well being. Josh goes to an unscrupulous tax attorney who says she won't charge the young man anything until he becomes rich and famous. However, Mo the tax person does not tell him that she is charging him exuberant hourly rates every time she works on the forms. He ends up owing her over $20,000. The poor schmuck can't even file bankruptcy because he inadvertently signed a binding release which states that Mo would own the rights to his Haiku Tunnel film if he files.

Josh owes around $60,000 in back taxes not only to the Federal Government but to the State Franchise Tax Bureau which he calls "the fran-cheesey" family. He believes they are an Italian mafia family named Don and Marie with a daughter named Dora. The poor guy is completely "fetutzed". However, there is a silver lining which I'll leave for a surprise.

Kornbluth's tone and delivery is mesmerizing. It is brittle, fluid and very focused. Josh looks like a combination of Danny De Vito and Benjamin Franklin. His politics are definitely on the left as he tells about the IRS system in this country. You don't have to know much about taxes, since the show is about the world according to his philosophy. As he says to his audience, "I now think that taxation is the coolest topic on the plant - with the possible exception of love."

Love & Taxes runs through September 14 at the Berkeley Trust Stage, 2025 Addison Street, Berkeley. For tickets call 510-647-2949 or 888-4BRT-TIX or on the web at

Cheers - and be sure to Check the lineup of great shows this season in the San Francisco area

- Richard Connema

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