Review of "My Life on a Diet"

Renee Taylor onstage in "My LIfe on a Diet" at the Plaza Theatre in Manalapan. (Tina Valant / January 31, 2014)

If you stop and think about it too long, nothing about “My Life on a Diet,” through Feb. 9 at Manalapan’s Plaza Theatre, should work.

The one-woman show with Renee Taylor — who famously starred as Fran Drescher’s always-noshing mother on the 1990s sitcom “The Nanny” — is more like one of those entertainments booked for a corporate convention or maybe a Caribbean cruise. The theatrical factor is almost nonexistent. The staging is simply Taylor reading her script from a desk at stage right as images are projected onto a screen at center stage. That’s it.

Taylor doesn’t even summon forth many vocal dynamics in her reading, opting instead for the aural equivalent of a spoken lullaby. Again, it really shouldn’t work.

But it does. Taylor is a funny lady and an impressive name dropper. For 75 minutes with no intermission, she weaveMarilyn Monroe, Marlon Brando, Barbra Streisand, Steve McQueen, Jane Fonda, Cary Grant, Betty Grable, Lenny Bruce, Jerry Lewis, Joan Crawford, Grace Kelly, Jack Paars and Perry Como into her narrative, in which everything — and I mean every single thing — is centered on Taylor’s quest for the perfect diet.


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That crusade began during childhood (“I was built like a sugar cube,” Taylor confesses) in Miami Beach, where she was sent home from South Beach Elementary School with a note saying that 11-year-old Taylor “couldn’t go five minutes without a bagel in her mouth.”

She tells some solid-gold stories, including the ones about Hugh Hefner greeting her at the door in his signature pajamas; her dazzling recipe for gefilte fish; a date who looked better in her dresses than she did; and a reoccurring joke about her mother Frieda’s moxie. They’re howlers.

But the show would fall apart, crumble into pieces, if not for that screen. The projections — including the makeup of her diets, a few videos from her 60-plus-year career and photos of her famous friends — give punch to her punch lines. Without them, she is simply reading from the 1987 book that inspired the stage show. Even with her gift for gab, comic timing and Bronx accent, Taylor would probably face an uphill battle to get as many laughs as she does without it.

CLICK HERE TO READ HOW THE SHOW CAME TO BE

Thankfully, she doesn’t have to push too much, for there are no real life lessons here. The closest she comes is, “Food and fame: Those were my addictions” early in the performance. Later, she shares something Marilyn Monroe told her after a Lee Strasberg class at the Actors Studio in Manhattan: “Sometimes, when I’m hungry, it’s not necessarily for food.”

Relax. Taylor rarely gets heavier than that. Pun intended.

IF YOU GO:

"My Life on a Diet"

When: Through Feb. 9; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays through Saturdays, with 2 p.m. matinees Wednesdays, Saturdays and Sundays

Where: The Plaza Theatre, 262 S. Ocean Blvd., Manalapan

Cost: $45

Contact: 561-588-1820 or ThePlazaTheatre.net.