Reno - Rebel Without A Pause

Performance Schedule:

The Club
October 4 - October 24
Thursday - Saturday 10:00pm
Sunday 5:30pm

October 24 - December 28
Monday 8:00pm

January 3 - 13, 2002
Thursday - Sunday 8:00pm

NY POST Review, October 9, 2001
NY Times Review, October 16, 2001
Hi Drama! Review, October 12, 2001
Glen Loney Review, October 26, 2001
Newsday Review, October 15, 2001
Edward Rubin Review, October 29, 2001
HX Review, December 14, 2001

Prompted by enduring audience interest and the steady influx of affirming reviews, La MaMa will extend Reno's "Rebel Without a Pause" beyond its current closing date of December 17 by moving the show to the First Floor Theater. A New Year's Eve performance at 8:00 pm has been added. Following that, the show will run January 3 to 13, Thursdays through Sundays at 8:00 pm.

The unscripted show is performed as a stream-of-conscious monologue by Reno, with occasional glances to her notes. It deals entirely with the ever-changing events following the WTC/Pentagon tragedy and its aftermath. In a theatrical reflection that is partly deconstructionist politics and partly a patriotic confession, she challenges the audience to keep up with her as she attempts to assimilate the unfolding crisis. This unfinished, unvarnished show rides on a sublime fusion of Reno's heart and Reno's smarts. She calls her feelings, her politics, even her instinctive alienation, all into question.

With New York turning to relevant theater in the wake of the World Trade Center disaster, Reno is at the head of the pack. She evacuated, with her dog and many neighbors, from her TriBeCa neighborhood and now she resents it that the TV networks have returned to entertainment programming eight days after the incident. She thinks that "Frazier" should be pre-empted so that Condoleezza Rice can give a history of our "somewhat antagonistic Middle East policies." "I'm a judgmental motherf*cker now," she asserts, but concedes that she "still loves humanity enough to give 'em a laugh."

Fortunately, she is a "concept comedian" and her material is always shifting and in the moment. It was actually invigorating to her to toss out much of her material for her October 4 show, "Rebel Without a Pause," and start over. With so many people smoldering now, she thinks her new show might just have a town meeting feeling, with the potential of audience members speaking out as well. She asserts, "I don't think I'll be talking about lost love and parking spaces--well maybe parking spaces, since I've been parked illegally for a week now." Many of her solo theatre works have been heavily-improvised topical monologues with incredible wit and no small amount of political consciousness and common sense. It's been said that she reflects the audience's suspicions and thoughts. She's always on the edge of funny and serious. She doesn't tell jokes. That's why she's not on Jay Leno every day.

"I have been amazed so far with the efforts of the authorities to preserve the cilil liberties of people who were brought in for questioning," she notes. But she's mad as hell at the tattooed, green-haired kids in Union Square Park whose entire reaction to the event was, "Nuke 'em." "They grasp for easy answers. They unfortunately don't have an overview that connects economics and politics. They're acting like warmongers. Youth doesn't mean dissent any more."

Does Reno dare to sway from the lock-step American chorus of "Our Leadership, Do or Die"? Guess. Friends have questioned her criticisms because, she says, "People are freaked out. They're scared because they're used to unmitigated peace. Peace to get rich. I've never been at peace. I can't sleep when everyone else does, and I have never minded my own business." She is deeply concerned with questions like civil liberties, which she equates with survival questions. Notwithstanding her own situation in lower Manhattan, she won't become a security-monger out of fear. Public face scans? "We are walking blindly into self-imprisonment."

She's struck with the fact that the suicide pilots had lived here pretty much like their American neighbors and were not won over one iota to the American way of life. She's also been struck with survivor guilt, like most of Manhattan. She muses, "How can we wage war and create "Infinite Justice" at the same time?"

In an article following the WTC/Pentagon crisis titled "Theater of New Realities," theater critic Larry Litt (New York Theatre Wire) wrote, "Only theater and performances that deal with real issues in a heterogeneous, free thinking, and freely expressive society will matter to me in the future." If this is to be the new business of theater, Reno will be a CEO in it, or at least a significant shareholder.

"Rebel Without a Pause" opens the first season of The Club at La MaMa under the artistic leadership of its new "cultural minister," Nicky Paraiso. It will be her first extended theatrical run since "Reno Finds Her Mind" (1998). Spiritually, it is akin to her Bravo TV series, "Citizen Reno," which synthesizes her monologues with documentary film and video. New York Magazine called the style "investigative standup."
Imagine an angrier, funnier Michael Moore.

A consummate Manhattanite, Reno is ever quirky, unpredictable, inventive and above all, uncensored. With her impulsiveness, broken-field stride and stream-of-conscious delivery, she challenges her audience to keep pace with her. There is an inherent theatricality in the braininess and quirkiness of what she says. Reno once stated that her audience has to be either really loaded or very bright and broad-minded. She attributes her wild and impetuous style to her kinky mind, which resists hierarchical thought and is "more like a plow than a ladder." She also claims to have been "apparently been born with very little in the way of inhibitors, those prickly innards that block one's antisocial impulses." She made a whole show on her thought process in her last extended theatrical engagement, "Reno Finds Her Mind" (1998), which was commercially produced at the Sullivan Street Lounge.

After a rebellious childhood and a stint on campus as a rabble-rouser (and through no design of her own), Reno's personality started attracting invitations, large and small, into show biz. Not conscious of her abilities as a performer, she took to the road, ending up in San Francisco, where she set up her own street business fixing cars. She eventually got back to New York, and despite her decidedly un show-biz disposition, found her performing legs. She began periodically dropping onto the stage to deliver her reports on "the way things is." Comedy clubs were a place to start, but she quickly realized that her unrehearsed performance-oriented stuff wasn't right for them. It was ultimately suited, and found a home, in art galleries and avant-garde performance spaces.

At the Actor's Playhouse, in 1990, she finally broke through to a wider audience. "Reno: In Rage and Rehab" was a surprise hit -- a 90 minute show performed eight times a week Off Broadway. It was ultimately taped for HBO in one of their first original program pieces and led to a Cable Ace Award nomination. She followed this success with another hugely successful one-woman show, "Reno Once Removed," which was commissioned by Lincoln Center's Serious Fun! and the New York Shakespeare Festival. It enjoyed an extended run at the Public Theater in New York in 1992. Since then she has toured extensively.

Reno has also fashioned a variety of non-traditional works for commercial television (to pay the bills). She created "Citizen Reno," a series of works combining performance and life, in an original format for television--a hybrid of reality and fiction. The show, with executive producers Jane Wagner and Lily Tomlin, has aired on Bravo in four half-hour episodes, titled "Money," "Science," "Civilization," and "Conformity."
Reno's first HBO movie, "Reno Finds Her Mom," was a semi-documentary that aired on Mother's Day, 1998 with special appearances by Lilly Tomlin and Mary Tyler Moore. The show took the audience on Reno's personal journey to find her birth mother--a journey that Reno insists is just as political as her other work.

The restless, dyed-blond monologist has been a frequent performer at La MaMa through the years, appearing in a variety of seasonal celebrations and one-night stands in The Club. This is her first extended run there. Her performance work is evolutionary and this show will be her first time before a live audience with these ideas. La MaMa staffers are looking forward to the show as a theatrical reclamation of one of Manhattan's outstanding talents who has too long been "borrowed away" by her TV career.

NY Times Review
October 16, 2001
By Anita Gates
Shaken but Still Undiluted Opinions

"When the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center, Reno was sound asleep in her apartment eight blocks away. Reno, the comedian and performance artist, had been up until 6 or 7 a.m. writing some new material about Christian fundamentalists, she says. "Rebel Without a Pause," her one-woman show at La Mama, begins with an answering machine message received hours later from her friend Pat, saying in part, "Reno, we're under terrorist attack," and assuring her that she isn't joking.

Once Reno woke up, she went outdoors to find TriBeCa transformed into "TriBeCaStan," and thought, "Maybe we should go uptown to Spring Street or something." She hasn't stopped putting her personal spin on the situation since. She may be as deeply affected by the attacks as any other New Yorker, but she isn't letting events change her politics.

She still attacks Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, for instance, and is horrified that he returned a $10 million donation from a Saudi prince for political reasons. "It's like when he kicked Arafat out of Lincoln Center," she said. "We don't want any Arabs listening to Bach." She says that President Bush isn't exactly doing us proud in terms of eloquence. "When he isn't rehearsed," she observes, "he's like a drunk pretending to be sober." She is, however, in love with Tony Blair.

She is baffled by the television networks' need to package the war (with Emmy-aspiring titles like "America Fights Back"), by the logic of soldiers dressing in camouflage on city streets ("Maybe," she tells one, "you should be wearing asphalt or something"), by the fact that all the Red Cross workers she has met seem to be from Alabama. She is a little worried that the government is suddenly so desperate for Arabic translators and advisers that "the State Department is, like, going into every falafel joint in London," recruiting. There is one silver lining, she says. "Thank God Falwell and Robertson fell into the trap," she says, referring to the television appearance by the evangelists Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson in which they agreed that various elements of American life — including the American Civil Liberties Union, gay people and abortion-rights advocates — were to blame for the terrorist attacks. (When criticized, they took it back.)

If "Rebel Without a Pause" seems like a strange title for this 90-minute chronicle of the events of the last month, that's because this wasn't the subject matter Reno had originally planned. She had expected to gripe about the gentrification of TriBeCa, the mayoral race and the difficulty of being a bohemian these days, but Sept. 11 made those concerns peripheral at best. As a result, the show has an unpolished last-minute quality unlike Reno's usual fast-paced, laugh-a-second presentations.

Like the rest of us, she has so many reactions to and thoughts about the situation that she hasn't yet sorted them all out, and that seems totally appropriate. It doesn't mean she isn't ready to ask tough questions. At one point she plays a tape of Celine Dion singing "God Bless America" and asks audience members what the song makes them feel. "Is it total manipulation?" she asks. It's a tough moment, testing our longtime sophisticated skepticism and our newfound identification with old-fashioned patriotism. Mostly it made me long for Kate Smith.

"Rebel Without a Pause" continues through Sunday at the Club at La MaMa."

NY POST Review
October 9, 2001
By Chip Deffaa

"At last! An entertainer willing to talk about what all of us have been going through in recent weeks.

To her great credit, when the comedian Reno learned we were under terrorist attack, she threw out the entire script for her solo show at La MaMa, "Rebel Without a Pause." She decided, instead, to talk about what we're going through. Her show, a work in progress, is changing daily.

On Sunday afternoon, just hours after the attack on Afghanistan was announced on the news, she was already commenting on it.

You need not agree with everything this provocative woman says to applaud her willingness to address the current crisis.

At an hour-and-a-quarter, the show needs pruning. And she does not need the lengthy introduction she is given by the club's curator; if ever there was a performer qualified to speak for herself, it is Reno."

Newsday Review
October 15, 2001
by Gordon Cox
Tragedy Becomes A Stage Dialogue

IF YOU BELIEVE the more sinister implications of Ari Fleischer's warning that the American people need to watch what we say and do in these times of heightened security, then Reno had better look out. The comedian-monologuist, appearing in a cabaret space at La MaMa through Sunday, raises her voice in the kind of healthy dissent that's a rare thing in the current political climate. Reno isn't going to let Fleischer stomp all over her civil liberties. She's got some issues with the way things are, and she'd like to share them.

She wonders, for example, why the skeptical liberals of America should have any more confidence in George W. Bush today than they did on Sept. 10. Isn't it clear that even the administration thinks Bush is still the same folksy, clueless guy? And doesn't that explain why, these days, British Prime Minister Tony Blair does all the talking?

There are many more edgy, engaged observations where that came from, and they'll all have up-to-the-minute relevance. After the terrorist attacks, Reno tossed out most of her preparatory work for "Rebel Without a Pause," and started to write material dealing with life in New York and in America post-Sept. 11. She comes up with new stuff every day, and every evening she brings it in to talk over with her audience.

So the show will be a different one from the "Life in Wartime" edition I saw, just a few hours after the United States began bombing Afghanistan. That's what makes the show feel so vital, and so urgently necessary.

Working occasionally from notes, the fiercely opinionated Reno regales her audiences with free-association commentary that's challenging but never harshly confrontational. (She encourages a kind of town- meeting atmosphere; if you disagree with her, say so.) She's also very funny, but her act isn't quite comedy.

When she plays a snippet of Celine Dion's version of "God Bless America," she's not doing it for laughs. She really listens to it, and we can watch her conflicted emotions - even though her knee-jerk impulses are telling her to roll her eyes, she can't help being moved by it - play out over her face.

Zeroing in on all the contradictions of our life in wartime, Reno turns "Rebel Without a Pause" into topical theater in the best sense: the kind of live event that speaks to us right here, right now, from the very moment we're living in ourselves.

Hi Drama! Review
October 12, 2001
by: Bill Bradford

"It has been for us "theatre Folks" a long pause, three years since we last had the priviledge of seeing Reno Live. If you are priviledge enough to have cable, she has been busy doing/developing shows. So for her she probably wanted/deserves a rest. But she is too aware and conscientious to rest.

More unlikely she was working on definitely different material before September 11. Since then we all have been working on our own material. She presented an examination of what happened to her that day and her observations of what has been going on since. It is a delicate, fine line and some people might take offense and maybe that is part of it. Above all she has made us aware of life going on. The fact that she lived right in the vicinity of the Towers and witnessed it, after being rudely awakened by a telephone call/message. She goes through how she and others got through it and still getting through it. The incredible changes in all of our behaviors, and how long is this going to last. It is moving, poignant, thought-provoking, and funny without being disrespectful. Above all she has retaught us how to laugh together and in the face of tragedy.

Do yourself a favor and see this. Major Happy Face."

New York Theatre Wire
October 26, 2001
by: Glenn Loney

Not only is LaMaMa ELLEN STEWART a Force of Nature, she's also the Patroness/Producer Sublime of many of America's most notable avant-garde performers, writers, directors, designers, and choreographers. [And that's the third mention of Force of Nature in this report!] Some have moved on from the tiny ground-floor theatre at 74a East Fourth Street to the nearby LaMaMa Annex. Andrei Serban began in the basement!

But the LaMaMa vanguard has moved onward—by degrees—to the Public Theatre, to Lincoln Center, and to Broadway. And on to Hollywood in one direction, or Europe in the opposite. Or to Africa, Asia, and the other Americas…

Some never made it to the Great White Way—nor was that move ever part of their Creative Dreamtime. Instead, their innovative work has been given whole chapters—or at least paragraphs—in Theatre History!

Even more notable is the fact that this is LaMaMa's FORTIETH ANNIVERSARY SEASON! The Metropolitan Opera, of course, passed that milestone some time ago. But even the Met had seasons in which survival was in question.

There's a very big difference, however, between major performing arts organizations—with Millionaire Boards and Budgets—and Off-Off-Broadway institutional theatres like LaMaMa. With no Daddy Warbucks patrons—but with ambitious ongoing production programs.

Even those innovative theatre ensembles like Circle Rep and Circle in the Square—which had impressive rosters of wealthy patrons—ultimately failed. In both cases, sadly, the failure was not only in funding, but also in artistic vision.

Other groups, like the Impossible Ragtime Theatre and CSC—under Chris Martin and Karen Sunde—despite their admirable production choices and actual stagings, finally just "wore out." Fund-raising and Fighting the Board became major efforts, at the expense of energies which should have gone into production.

The New York Lifespan of a number of excellent Alternative Theatres has been about ten years or so. How Ellen Stewart has managed to "keep on trucking" is a wonder!

One of the treats of the new season is Reno in Rebel Without a Pause. Her upfront comments on the State of Downtown Manhattan—and of the nation as well—in the wake of the World Trade Center bombings proved pert and pertinent.

Immediately after the disaster, it was generally agreed that Irony Was Dead. And that Socio-Political Comedy was In Remission.

There were even those old enough to Remember Pearl Harbor and the World War II slogan: "Loose Lips Sink Ships." Fortunately, those who would like to revive wartime censorship—and trade the defunct Cold War for a very hot one—don't go to LaMaMa.

Even so, Reno ruffled some feathers. She's not a great admirer of the Nation's CEO. And she thinks Mayor Giuliani should have kept that Saudi check. That rejecting it was Political Grandstanding.

Reno had jotted down some notes on pet and recent peeves. Almost all these improvs proved interesting and often amusing. But she could profit from an editor-director's assistance in honing her routines.

Off-the-Cuff may well be a LaMaMa Style, but—after 40 years at the same stand—how could some structure and shaping hurt concepts and substance?...

Reviewed by Edward Rubin
October 29, 2001

In a fortuitous stroke of luck, Nicky Paraiso, the new cultural "Pooh Bah" of The Club at La MaMa, had booked in Reno to open The Club's season and lo and behold a hit was born. For those that want to see Reno, as trite as it sounds, this "must see" event is being held over by popular demand. She will be doing her thing every Monday at 8PM through December. Though the play is a hit for all involved, I seriously doubt that it is an accident. One, Reno has a large, loyal and vocal following and two, Nicky Paraiso, a performance artist and a fine musician in his own right, knows talent when he sees it. And all he has to do is turn to his friends, which in no small way is what the East Village has always been about. It will be interesting to watch what acts he books in. For the record, this is my first Reno experience. It is not my last. I am now a Reno groupie.

Both a writer and performer Reno is mixture- let's call her a mutt in the most positive sense - between Bette Midler, Joan Rivers and Lily Tomlin. Throw in the mental agility of Jackie Mason and you get Reno. Quite a mouthful huh! They all share similar comic movements and rapid, staccato timing. Their heads are stuffed with ideas, too many to allow them to come out at once. Often their patter is bottlenecked and they trip over their tongues. But being consummate performers they work that into their acts and it is on to the next zinger. That is to say, impeccably they know just how to work the audience. Reno is my friend Phyllis B who is never at a loss for words or advice. Lord help you if you meet her at the bus stop. She is everybody's sister, mother, and next door neighbor. Let's face it, as Flaubert would say, Reno is also us. And at our funniest and most reflective.

While the evening is political -how could it be otherwise - it is also deeply personal. Reno has mined all our thoughts from the past month and is now feeding them back to us. And willingly, like some elixir guaranteed to cure us, we swallow them whole. The only difference between Reno's story and ours is that she has edited out the floss and has fashioned them into a funny, coherent and somewhat, as this whole terrorist saga is, surreal story. It is wonderful to hear our story retold by somebody else.

Reno's show starts with a wakeup call that blossoms into many. Her friends, knowing Reno lives three blocks from the World Trade Center and doesn't go to bed until 6AM - " I'm not finished with the day," - are worried about her safety. Daring to wake her up, they call to tell her what is outside her window. Running out to her fire escape, she finds not Tribeca but TriBeCaStan. Soon we see Reno and all of her neighbors turning on their TV's to make sure that what they are seeing outside their windows is really happening. Funny, scary and at the same time absolutely true. Who amongst us were not glued to their TV during this period. Realizing that she must flee the area, in order to breathe, she runs to Spring Street in Soho, which to hear it from Reno is the closest thing to the country. In reality it is a few blocks walk. One of the few things she took with her, so she "should be focused, " was her vibrator. She got a lot of chuckles there.

While Reno is funny, her humor intricately tied into daily events hits home. As she likes to say, she is a "glass, half empty kind of gal." No subject is safe from her attack. I particularly enjoyed her depiction of " bragging rights," something that we all observed first hand. Everybody wants a piece of the action. Each person tells their story about where they were when the planes hit. And each story brings the teller closer and closer to ground zero. Like Kilroy was here, somehow being able to say I was there gives meaning to the unfathomable while allaying one's fears.

Reno has few kind words for our autocratic mayor. She is pissed off that everybody, from visiting dignitaries to a baseball team to Oprah are given escorted tours of Ground Zero while all of the people who live in the city, those that have been psychically as well as physically wounded, are not allowed into the area at all. Even the taking of pictures is forbidden. It seems the mayor has designated the area a crime scene. Reno not so subtly asks, who needs healing more, Oprah or us.

She has even less good things to say about Bush. He frightens her. "Here we have a man that has no curiosity," she says, "and not one ounce of context." She sees him as a frat pledge leader. Incredibly, Reno informs us, "Why he never even visited Europe until after he became president." Perhaps, she speculates, "it was all of those paintings that kept him away."

I must admit that being a downtown, East Village/St Marks person for decades that I have been privy to some of the most wonderful and exciting theatrical events in my life. Nothing and I mean nothing, midtown, uptown, across country or overseas, can hold a candle to the joys that I have experienced between 14th Street and Canal over the past 36 years. This is my neighborhood and I love it. It is my Viagra. So it should be. So it is. Living in this petri dish, I have been royally entertained by a cast of thousands. And they keep coming. Reno is the latest of the greatest.

Within a 3-block radius of my apartment reside three of the city's most innovative theatres, New York Theatre Workshop, La MaMa E.T.C. and PS 122. Add another block and you get Theatre For The New City. Take the more traditional and commercial theatres into the mix, such as the Orpheum and the Jean Cocteau Repertory Theatre and twenty more theatrical spaces come to mind. Add Cooper Union, NYU, St. Marks Church, Thompkins Square Park, CBGB's, the Anthology Film Archives, the offices of the Village Voice, St. Marks Place, some thirty movie screens and hundreds of restaurants, and one begins to get a feel for the neighborhood and its possibilities.

Here is the most creatively vital section of the city, all of which leads me albeit in a round about way back to Reno. "Rebel Without A Pause" was definitely cathartic. It was not unlike a session with your shrink or better yet, taking the entire audience into consideration, a group session in which the facilitator does all of the complaining as we nod out heads. Clearly, I was no longer alone in my misery. I left the theatre happily thinking, "Now I can get on with my life." [Rubin]

Edward Rubin is a senior editor for "Manhattan Arts International" and a regular contributor to the "New Art Examiner" and "The Hispanic Outlook." He is also a long standing member of the New York Drama Desk, the Outer Critics Circle and AICA (The American Section of the International Association of Art Critics).

HX Review
December 14, 2001
Jonathan Warman

Nicky Paraiso has been after me for months to see lesbian comedian Reno’s Rebel Without a Pause. I’ve known Nicky for around five years, through our mutual love of East Village gay bars, especially The Bar (pre-fire) and Phoenix. It was only a couple of years into our acquaintance that I learned he was a noted, respected and exceptionally talented downtown singer, musician, dancer and actor.
Now Nicky’s the “cultural minister” of The Club at La MaMa (that’s what the press releases call him, and I love ribbing him about it; he prefers “curator and cultural poobah”). Rebel Without a Pause is La MaMa’s biggest hit in recent memory, and I totally trust Nicky’s taste, so I’ve wanted to comply with the minister’s decrees; I just haven’t been able to make the time. Now that I’ve seen Reno’s show, I wish I’d made time the first time Nicky busted my chops at Phoenix.

Reno’s show is such a hit that, in addition to her Monday nights at La MaMa, she also does the show Sunday at Marion’s Restaurant (another East Village fave of mine…great food and genuinely fun specialty cocktails), and a commercial run seems to be in the cards. Why is her show such a hit (I bet you thought I’d never get to the substance of this review)? Because she talks about September 11 and its aftermath in a way that nobody else does. She makes you laugh at the absurdity of it, at the absurdity of our idiot president and the musicality of the name Osama. She’s not afraid of expressing her rage at targets both domestic and foreign…at one raging moment during the La MaMa performance that I saw, she said, half to herself, “Get back to the funny stuff, Reno. Eh, not much chance of that!” Still, a half-minute later the audience was laughing loudly.

Reno’s nothing if not opinionated, so you’re bound to find yourself disagreeing with her at some point in the show (for me it was her feeling just how moving Celine Dion’s rendition of “God Bless America” is now…I say, “feh”). However, most of the experience is all head-nodding and mm-hmming - Reno for the most part nails the truth of New Yorkers’ common experience of the unimaginable. By admitting the horribleness of it all, she remarkably makes room to laugh at things we all knew were laughable, but were half-afraid to laugh at.

This is also a show you can come back to. I attended one performance apiece at Marion’s and La MaMa, and there was different material that I don’t think was attributable to a change of venue. Although she has certain set jokes and bits, Reno’s not a person to memorize material verbatim, so the structure and substance of the show is very fluid…she’ll drop stuff or ad lib at the slightest provocation. On the downside, this flexibility means the show can run a bit long if Reno’s not reading her audience right…the Marion’s show I caught seemed a bit long, and the La MaMa show a bit short. Long story short: If you need perspective on all this mishegoss, Reno’s show is mighty focusing, agree or disagree.

2001 page