Love that Lasts
A lasting relationship in show business is a rarity, but that’s not the case with Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna. The acting and writing couple celebrated 48 years of marriage this summer, and they continue to write and work together regularly.
Taylor may be best known for her role as Fran Drescher’s mother on “The Nanny,” and Adam Sandler fans might recognize Bologna as Sandler’s father in “Big Daddy.” Aside from a long list of television and movie credits, the two have written several plays. Their most recent work, “Bermuda Avenue Triangle,” opens at the ProArts Playhouse on Thursday night.
“All my plays are about transformation, transformation through love – how love heals you – how love transforms you,” Taylor says. “I feel that I was transformed by the love of my husband.”
“Triangle” is the tale of two retired widows, essentially dumped by their daughters (Sharleen Lagattuta and Angela Thompson) into a Las Vegas retirement condominium community. Playing the female leads on Maui are Barbara Sedano as Fannie Saperstein and Sharyn Stone as Tess La Ruffa.
As a result of their misfortune, Fannie cries all the time and Tess does nothing but kvetch, or complain. “Some people give up when they get old,” says Stone. “And if that is the case you might as well start pushing up daisies.”
“They mourn, and then they get stuck in that rut,” Sedano added. “They think they’re unlovable.”
Taylor and Bologna originally wrote the play for themselves, and the character of Tess for award-winning actress and singer Lainie Kazan. At the time, Kazan was unavailable, but later joined the cast in 2006. Other actresses that have played the role over the years include “Golden Girls” actress Bea Arthur and celebrated performer Nanette Fabray.
One critic describes “Triangle” as ” ‘Lucy’ plus ‘The Golden Girls’ plus ‘Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.’ ” Regardless of the interpretations, Bologna says the play shows that “You’re never too old to do what you think you’re too old to do.”
Asking both actresses if there was something that they think they’re “too old” for, Sedano replied: “Sex.”
“A flaming affair,” added Stone.
Sedano laughed and said Taylor and Bologna wanted to have some fun with the play.
“They’re obviously still madly in love,” she added. “You don’t see that onstage, passionate, older people, but it’s all there onstage with this show, and it’s fun.
“I don’t think audiences will be used to seeing older people making out and rolling around on the couch. When you get that age you always think you’re on the park bench, as if older people don’t have sex. My son asked me: ‘You don’t actually have sex?’ And I said, ‘Yes.’ He replied, ‘Eww.’ There are some bold ideas here that could shock some people.”
“Triangle” is an urban ethnic comedy. The role of Tess is played by Stone as an Irish woman who married a Sicilian man. In previous productions, actresses have had the option to reverse that. For example, Kazan played Tess as a Sicilian.
With this genre comes urban slang and a great deal of Yiddish. To help theatergoers who may be unfamiliar with these phrases, I’m including a minitranslation.
“Mishegaas” means crazy, erratic behavior; “shiksa” is an attractive nonJewish woman; “machiah” can describe “it’s like living again,” or wonderful; “alter kocker” is a cantankerous old man, but is much dirtier; “meshunge (or meshuggah)” means crazy; “zoftig” signifies the pleasingly plump; “zer shane (or sehr schoen)” means very beautiful; “gesunt” is healthy; and “korva” translates to “slut,” but more precisely “born a whore in her mother’s belly.” It’s never a good idea to use that last word, by the way.
I asked if Maui audiences would be able to follow these stereotypical characters. “Jewish and Catholic people will most definitely see their relatives,” said Stone. She quoted a line from the play: “We Jews are good at giving guilt; you Catholics are good at receiving it.”
“I think all women can relate to the mother-daughter relationships,” added Sedano.
“Triangle” becomes just that, when mysterious, but charming, drunk Johnny Paolucci (Scott Thompson) saves the ladies from a mugger on a hiking trail. He woos them both, eventually mooching gambling money. Who is this man and what was he doing wandering drunk in Red Rock Canyon with no identification?
A rabbi (Gary Shin-Leavitt) gets involved in the sordid not-so-private affairs of the trio, and the sleepy community of Bermuda Avenue is abuzz with stories and sightings of illicit desire and passion, a violation of the condo code of conduct.
I asked about this “code of conduct,” and both actresses jumped into character.
“We didn’t sign that. Our daughters did. Besides a menage e trois, is my business; it’s private,” says Fannie.
Tess adds: “And I didn’t even know what a menage e trois was.”
Comedy aside, “Triangle” is really about what Taylor and Bologna had to say about the project, transformation and love. “It’s the joy of meeting someone new who appreciates you,” said Stone. “Farce doesn’t work without a balance of comedy and pathos – identifying with the human failings. There are these little moments of seriousness, and I find myself getting teary. These things are genuine; they are real issues.”
Sedano quoted a Johnny line from the show, “I never let myself love anyone, because I figured I wouldn’t be any good at it, but now I think I could be good at it.”
* ProArts Playhouse presents “Bermuda Avenue Triangle” by Rene Taylor and Joseph Bologna, directed by Kristi Scott. Performances are 7:30 p.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays and 3 p.m. Sundays; play opens Friday and continues through Oct. 27 at the ProArts Playhouse in Kihei.
Tickets are $22, with kamaaina discounts for Hawaii residents on Saturday, along with Oct. 17 and 24. and Thursdays. For tickets or more information, call 463-6550.
Next weekend, King Kekaulike High School will present “Lady Dracula” by Tim Kelly, based on the writings of Bram Stoker and directed by Chris Kepler. Mina, a victim of Count Dracula, has searched for a young man who would resemble her first love, Jonathan Harker. She finds him in a teacher who opens a school for brilliant students. Lady Dracula keeps to the shadows except when thirst arouses her to prey on victims. The school is then invaded by the police and a descendant of the vampire-hunting Van Helsing. Performances are at 7 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays, Oct. 18 through 27, in the cafetorium at the King Kekaulike campus in Pukalani. Tickets are $8 for adults and $6 for students, only available at the door one half hour before the show.
If you have kids younger than 10, you won’t want to miss Maui Academy of Performing Art’s free performances of “Return of the Menehune” by Derek Nakagawa, directed by Ricky Jones, and starring Nakagawa and Dylan Bode. Using puppets, original music and age-appropriate humor, this original play tells the story of a young boy and a menehune who learn the value of working together to take care of the land. Performances are at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19 at MAPA’s Steppingstone Playhouse in Queen Ka’ahumanu Center. Admission is free.
Maui OnStage presents “I Know What You Did Last Rocktober” at the Historic Iao Theater. The fifth annual series of campy horror nights will feature Halloween-themed burlesque by the Kit Kat Club Cabaret, Maui’s “Thriller Dancers,” the Kihei Charter School dancers, free horror film nights and the annual “Rocky Horror Picture Show” party. KKC’s “Phantome,” a multimedia gothic fantasy show, will take the stage at 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Oct. 25 and 26; tickets are $22 to $30, plus applicable fees. Admission is free for all of the movie nights, which include “Ghostbusters” on Oct. 30 and “The Shining” on Halloween night. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. with prefilm entertainment and $5 all-you-can-eat popcorn. “Rocky Horror” screens at 8 p.m. Nov. 1 and Rocky party packs (toast, cards, squirt guns, etc.) are available for $12. Alcohol is strictly prohibited at all Rocktober events; bags are subject to search. For more information, visit www.mauionstage.com.