Renée Taylor brings the important people in her life back for her one-woman show ‘My Life on a Diet’
Written with her late actor-husband Joseph Bologna, the autobiographical comedy opens Tuesday in Skokie for a three-week run.
This is a story of a man and a woman and a love story that lived through the ages. But, first, a joke … we think.
“I’m going to be staying at this hotel in Skokie, and their motto is: ‘Little things matter,’ ” actress Renée Taylor, who’s 86, says by phone from New York, where she lives. “So I call the manager up, and I ask him if he really means that. I tell him that it’s very important for me to have the pool at 86 degrees during my stay. He called me back to say the pool will be, in fact, 86 degrees.”
That’s the power of Renée Taylor. The Emmy Award-winning actress and writer is in town for a three-week engagement of her one-woman show “My Life on a Diet” at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, which opens Tuesday and runs through Aug. 4. Written by Taylor and her late actor-husband Joseph Bologna, the autobiographical comedy looks at the life and career of the acclaimed actress.
“It was my husband’s idea to write it,” says Taylor, best known for playing Fran Drescher’s outspoken motherSylvia Fine on the 1990s TV series“The Nanny.” “I didn’t think people would be interested in my life and what I was eating.”
Renée Taylor’s ‘My Life on a Diet’
When: Tuesday–Aug. 4
Where: North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie
The foundation of the show has Taylor taking the audience through a lifetime of dieting, with Joan Crawford, Barbra Streisand, Marlon Brando and Cary Grant serving up inspiration for that part of her life. Mixed in with the dialogue are photos of the people who’ve been in her life.
“It’s always great to see my husband’s face,” says Taylor, whose husband died in 2017 at 82. “And the audience seems to love seeing the faces of people like Marilyn Monroe and Grace Kelly again.”
Taylor says she tends not to go off-script, worrying that would put her beyond the show’s scheduled 90 minutes.
“I mean, people have to go to the restroom, you know?” she says with a laugh.
Her career has spanned more than 70 years. But the actress still worries about getting the laugh.
“Sometimes, I will sit there and think to myself, ‘They are not laughing at all,’ ” says Taylor, who last appeared at the North Shore Center with Bologna in 2005 with their Broadway play“It Had to Be You.” “And I start thinking that maybe I’m not funny. But then I will look out in the crowd, and they will be smiling and interested in what I’m saying, and that makes me feel good.”
And there are parts of the show, as in life, that aren’t funny.
“There are points where the audience chokes up a bit,” Taylor says. “When you are sharing your life with people, you are just going to go deeper at moments. I think when I talk about my husband dying and about us falling in love, people get emotional.”
She does, too. “It’s very healing for the audience and for me,” she says.
Taylor’s aiming to make people laugh a little — and to keep their eyes off their cellphones for awhile: “I mean, what did these people do before cell phones?” But she also intends for her show to offer an example of how life goes on.
“I moved to New York a year ago,” she says. “My husband and I had lived in our house in Beverly Hills for 43 years. But, after he died, it was just no fun there without him.”
She pauses. A deep breath.
“I love it here now, but I was afraid,” Taylor says. “I know how cold it gets. But the summer has just been magical. I can walk to go to the opera.”
Midway through her 80s, she says this is the best time of her life.
“I never pictured that I would be sitting here right now,” she says. “My husband’s energy is with me. I can feel it. After all, he always said he would keep in touch.”
Tricia Despres is a freelance writer.