If you are interested in a one-person show about stand-up comedian Lenny Bruce, run do not walk to The 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company’s production of
“I’m not a Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce” ending its extended run at the Theatre at 68 Cent Crew at 5112 Lankershim Boulevard in the North Hollywood Arts District on September 15th.
This is 85 minutes of Bruce explaining his life, loves and lust for stand-up comedy and the material that ended up getting him blacklisted, arrested and sentenced to four months on Rikers Island
due to obscenity charges.
Actor Ronnie Marmo, who plays Bruce, is such a convincing figure that we are whisked away to the mid-1960s and Bruce’s heyday as a pioneering prince of populism. Truly, this Jewish stand-up
comedian from Brooklyn did not just
open doors for other comedians, he kicked them wide open.
The show proves that as the title says, Bruce’s type of imaginative, socially conscious and myth making or busting stand up comedy is unlike that of any comedian before or after him.
His keen social observations and insight, along with an ability to analyze and dissect our use of the English language should have made him into a saint of subject and syntax, instead it
propelled the establishment, which made little to no effort to understand Bruce’s comedy material, to brand him a “sicko,” for lack of a better word, and a criminal.
Where were his First Amendment Rights?
Where was his ability to defend himself in court against the state’s charges?
Today, Bruce is nothing less than a legend. His passion for perfection and attacks against what he deemed hypocrisy in society set the table for stand-up comedians such as Richard Pryor, George
Carlin and Sam Kinison.
But Bruce continues to be an original, as renowned today as he was in the 1960s.
And for good reason. His act, performance pieces and process, so to speak, required a great deal of courage, self-discipline and a special and unique ability to laugh at himself and the world
Director Joe Mantegna turns the theatre in North Hollywood, CA into a comedy or nightclub, giving us a chance to see Bruce in his element, at his best, and sometimes worst.
The Tony and Joseph Jefferson Award-winning actor thereby shows not tells us Bruce’s act, allowing us to come to our own conclusions about the obscenity issues, among others.
The Emmy-nominated actor does a more-than-commendable job understanding not only Bruce’s punch lines, but his sincerity and calm in sharing the oft-controversial and, for the time, loaded
Writer and actor Marmo, however, steals the show. The 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company Artistic Director tumbles, tosses, tangles and tangos with the truth that was Bruce in a disarming,
uncommonly sensitive manner that lends the show a boldness, electricity, power and spine that other productions about the timeless stand-up comedian lack.
As an example, the most touching moment of the evening comes as Bruce describes the car accident that put his wife Honey out of commission for four months.
It is another drop of water in the shower of heartfelt information that Bruce conveys about his mother, Honey and daughter Kitty.
The language here is taken from Bruce’s writings and recordings and does not miss a beat.
The words are genuine, honest and highly humorous. But more than anything else, they make us think, ponder and realize that, yes, Bruce was a once-in-a-lifetime talent who, unfortunately
for him and us, was born ahead of his time.
Marmo really is Bruce. The veteran film, television and theatre actor does not just cut his teeth on playing Bruce, he embodies and becomes the brilliant stand-up comedian.
It is a transformation that must be seen to be believed. Marmo’s zest and love for the role emerge at every turn.
His admiration and respect for Bruce can also be seen in the comedy routines he so perfectly brings to life. Marmo inhabits Bruce and proves why he was such a threat to the status quo, and why
to this day he is seen as a hero by
many artists, fellow stand-up comedians and lay people.
All in all, “I’m Not A Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce” succeeds because of its dark, confessional, but hilarious humor, not despite it.
A gifted writer, director and actor turn what could be an exercise in self-congratulations into a truly mesmerizing, cutting edge, beautifully-acted and relevant rendering of a lonely and troubled
that in the end is sad, tragic and difficult to swallow, yet highly watchable.
This one-person play proves that Bruce’s America was not ready for the piercing and robust truth he carried in his soul of souls.
The question begs, is today’s America any more tolerant and open minded?
Bruce is also Bruce here because of the innovative lighting of Matt Richter and a can-do spirit and attitude on the part of The 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company.
The ensemble, from what this critic has seen, is bold and unafraid of taking risks.
It is one of the most creative and productive bi-coastal theatre companies in the country, if not Los Angeles alone.
In this production, the ensemble scales Herculean peaks, swims widest oceans and weathers deepest valleys in bringing Bruce to life.
That alone is no easy task.
By Radomir Vojtech Luza
“I’m Not A Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce” previews at The Cutting Room in New York City this month and October.
General Information: (323) 960-5068
Where: The 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company at
5112 Lankershim Boulevard,
North Hollywood, CA
Review of The 68 Cent Crew Theatre Company’s Production of I’M NOT A COMEDIAN…I’M LENNY BRUCE in North Hollywood, CA Extended Through September 15th May 27th, 2019Radomir Vojtech Luza