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.
October 16, 2001
By Anita Gates
Shaken but Still
"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.
a Pause" continues through Sunday at the Club at La MaMa."
NY POST Review
October 9, 2001
By Chip Deffaa
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."
October 15, 2001
by Gordon Cox
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
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.
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
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
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
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 onwardby degreesto 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 Waynor was that move ever part of their Creative
Dreamtime. Instead, their innovative work has been given whole chaptersor
at least paragraphsin 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 organizationswith
Millionaire Boards and Budgetsand Off-Off-Broadway institutional
theatres like LaMaMa. With no Daddy Warbucks patronsbut with ambitious
ongoing production programs.
Even those innovative
theatre ensembles like Circle Rep and Circle in the Squarewhich
had impressive rosters of wealthy patronsultimately failed. In
both cases, sadly, the failure was not only in funding, but also in artistic
Other groups, like
the Impossible Ragtime Theatre and CSCunder Chris Martin and Karen
Sundedespite 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
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
One of the treats
of the new season is Reno in Rebel Without a Pause. Her upfront comments
on the State of Downtown Manhattanand of the nation as wellin
the wake of the World Trade Center bombings proved pert and pertinent.
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
censorshipand trade the defunct Cold War for a very hot onedon'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, butafter 40 years at the same standhow
could some structure and shaping hurt concepts and substance?...
Reviewed by Edward
October 29, 2001
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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."
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.
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.
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]
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).
December 14, 2001
Nicky Paraiso has
been after me for months to see lesbian comedian Renos Rebel Without
a Pause. Ive 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 Nickys the cultural minister of The Club at La MaMa
(thats 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 MaMas biggest hit in recent memory, and I totally
trust Nickys taste, so Ive wanted to comply with the ministers
decrees; I just havent been able to make the time. Now that Ive
seen Renos show, I wish Id made time the first time Nicky
busted my chops at Phoenix.
Renos show is
such a hit that, in addition to her Monday nights at La MaMa, she also
does the show Sunday at Marions 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 Id 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. Shes
not afraid of expressing her rage at targets both domestic and foreign
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
if not opinionated, so youre bound to find yourself disagreeing
with her at some point in the show (for me it was her feeling just how
moving Celine Dions rendition of God Bless America is
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 Marions
and La MaMa, and there was different material that I dont think
was attributable to a change of venue. Although she has certain set jokes
and bits, Renos not a person to memorize material verbatim, so the
structure and substance of the show is very fluid
stuff or ad lib at the slightest provocation. On the downside, this flexibility
means the show can run a bit long if Renos not reading her audience
the Marions 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, Renos show is mighty focusing, agree or disagree.