by Tracey Paleo, Gia On The Move
A tour de force performance may sound like the kind of hyperbole far too lightly used about a great many undeserving moments in today’s absurdly hyperbolic world. In the case of Ronnie Marmo as Lenny Bruce, however, the phrase is fact.
This is not the first time that Marmo has taken to the stage as iconic stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce. It is no accident that the comedian’s tics, expressions, vocal tone and pacing, intonation and body movements have been uncannily assimilated. And although it may be that once, long ago, before actually stepping into the shoes of the legend, Marmo was told that he, “reminded me of him [Bruce]”, what now steps before us is a bona fide recreation of comedy’s most infamous satirist whose free-style form criticized politics, religion and sex, and who became the poster boy for freedom of speech. Indeed, Ronnie Marmo is Lennie Bruce.
I Am Not a Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce, co-written by Ronnie Marmo and Jason M. Burns with acute direction by Joe Mantegna, is a world premiere, new version of an older production of Lenny’s Back (by Sam Bobrick and Julie Stein), for which he did two successful runs in his earlier career. The second, directed by then, General Hospital head writer, Robert Guza.
But for as terrifying as Marmo says it was, he has certainly been hooked. Hundreds of hours have been spent on research, writing, creating and recreating Bruce’s controversial voice. The result is a performance so nuanced, that Marmo completely disappears at the top of the evening as Bruce takes the stage in a raw and dirty confessional about drugs, the three loves of his life, fatherhood, the absurdities of the justice system and being criminalized by 60’s morality for the shocking crime of telling the truth (as he saw/spoke it).
Historically, Bruce was busted for obscenity charges for which he fought against all the way to the Supreme Court and for which he was subsequently convicted. He died accidentally of a morphine overdose in 1966, while out on appeal. The conviction was later overturned. But because Bruce died before the decision, he never had his conviction stricken. Bruce later received a full posthumous gubernatorial pardon. The show chronicles his life in bits, routines and reenactments to his death.
I Am Not a Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce, is profound, dark and powerfully triumphant in its execution, additionally brought to larger-than-life proportions by the intense Lighting, Projection and Sound design of Matt Richter and Stage Design by Danny Cistone.
Very Highly Recommended