NEW BRUNSWICK, NJ – Renee Taylor’s weight may have gone up and down like a yo-yo, but the one constant over 60-something years in show business has been her sense of humor.
Like the time her future mother in law asked her how she prepared gefilte fish.
Taylor realized her bluff as a culinary connoisseur had been called, so she had to come up with something quick.
You go out and get a nice piece of fish, she mused.
Right, right. And …
“And then,” she said, “You gefilte it.”
It’s funny how Taylor is able to trace a life’s journey from humble Bronx roots to Hollywood to Broadway to the New Brunswick Performing Arts Center through funny lines, food and fad diets. Literally, funny.
The one-liners and good, old-fashioned zingers were piled high like so many pancakes on a plate when George Street Playhouse's production of “My Life on a Diet” opened Friday night at the Arthur Laurents Theater. The show runs through Dec. 15.
At 86, Taylor has a lot to look back on.
As she chased the perfect figure through fad diet after fad diet, there were moments with (in no particular order) Grace Kelly, Barbara Steisand, Jack Paar, Jimmy Durante, Jerry Lewis, Joan Crawford, a psychic, an adoring mafioso and even a mean-spirited drama school teacher who told her that her full-figured portrayal of Juliet had “sabotaged” their production.
It’s the story of a woman who persevered with little more than her wits and some chutzpah, from her first roles as a hooker in, count ‘em, three b-movies to her loving portrayal Sylvia Fine on Fran Drescher’s “The Nanny,”
There were quieter and even sobering moments sprinkled in between the laughs, like the last time Taylor saw her friend Marilyn Monroe. Monroe, who was wearing a beat-up bathrobe and tattered jeans, asked Taylor if she ever found the Mr. Right, to find out if he had a friend.
Although it was too late to help Monroe, who passed away months after the encounter, Taylor eventually found Mr. Right.
Joseph Bologna and Taylor formed a romantic and creative partnership that lasted more than 50 years.
In fact, they co-wrote “My Life on a Diet” and Bologna was the original director before he passed away two years ago.
Although Taylor was a woman who loved her sweets, Taylor doesn’t sugar-coat anything - not even her relationship with her late husband. She and Bologna lived through many ups and downs. They kept it together, though, with the help of some marriage counselors, the Dali Lama, the Pope and Dr. Oz (I kid you not).
After all, if “My Life On a Diet teaches us anything, it’s that when life gives you lemons, gefilte them.