Renee Taylor has enjoyed a 60-year showbiz career, and she takes audiences through her personal journey in her one-woman show, “My Life on a Diet,” at the Bucks County Playhouse through Sunday, Nov. 24. She tells of her family life, her lifetime obsession with dieting, her career as an entertainer, and what she has learned and laughed about along the way.
Renee sits in an elegant chair behind a desk, with a screen projecting images and clips of her work to the side. It’s like we’re visiting an old friend to hear a great story, and, as her friend, I wished I had brought her chicken soup. Unfortunately, she was sick on opening day (2 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 20) and struggled with losing her voice. This was disappointing, but not as difficult as a 30-minute delayed curtain, held for a late-arriving bus.
She struggled sometimes as her voice cracked, but succeeded many times in getting her voice to cooperate as she needed it to. There are many funny bits in the show, like when she reminisced about going to a party at Hugh Hefner’s. He appeared at the door in silk pajamas and she said, “Are you sick? I can come back later.” I imagine at 100 percent health everything would be even more amusing.
About halfway through, the computer image program malfunctioned. Renee handled it like a pro. As she talked about her fan club’s discounted “irregular” t-shirts, the photo didn’t appear. Without missing a beat, she said, “The shirts said ‘The Liz Taylor Fan Club’ with Liz crossed out and Renee written in.” Shortly after, the show abruptly stopped as a voice from the back of the house informed Renee of the continuing technological difficulty. While the machine was worked on, Renee talked with the audience. The machine came to life again after about five minutes.
Throughout the performance, Renee read from the script, as is done in some shows, but seemed to know some parts better than others. Perhaps her illness caused her to stumble sometimes, but, even if the actors use the script, I prefer them more off-book than on.
But glitches and sickness aside, I enjoyed myself. Her story is heartwarming and hilarious, and she knows how to tell and sell a story. She’s an actor with an incredibly cool career, having worked with many famous people, like Perry Como, Jack Paar, Jerry Lewis, Barbra Streisand, and, of course, Fran Drescher. I enjoyed getting to know this caricature I had only seen on TV. I now know the character of the woman behind the scenes.