I Am Not A Comedian...I'm Lenny Bruce

Ben Miles Reviews - Theater
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Though he died in 1966 at just 40 years old, Lenny Bruce has left a legacy as a staunch advocate of the 1st Amendment of the U. S. Constitution and forged a comedy template that many a superstar stand-up comic has utilized over the decades since the original "sick" comic's demise, including the likes of Richard Pryor, George Carlin and Louis C. K.

A telling one-man stage iteration of Bruce's tumultuous life is being produced by North Hollywood's Theatre 68, through September 9 (it moves to New York thereafter). Written by Jason M. Burns and Ronnie Marmo, who renders an astute portrayal of the late comic, I Am Not A Comedian...I'm Lenny Bruce, receives pristine clarity and great theatricality through Joe Mantegna's straightforward direction and Marmo's riveting performance.

Arrested multiple times around the nation on so-called obscenity charges, and many times for narcotics violations, Bruce used his courtroom appearances as material for his stand up act. One of his funniest bits (and Bruce had a multitude of funny bits) was his impression of the police officer reciting portions of his act. Nervous, with voice quivering, the officer would repeat the dirty-word laced monologue, parts of which he'd jotted down on a cocktail napkin. Bruce's prime objection was that the cop did such a poor rendition of his act.

Through Marmo's intense portrayal, we learn of Bruce's life. He was an only child. He was a mama's boy and a lady's man. He and his wife, Honey, had a child they called Kitty. Bruce and Honey had a horrific automobile accident, which threw them both from the car. As Honey lay in the street, she was hit by a car and run over by a truck.

Bruce believed that it is the suppression of words and language that give them the power to hurt and offend. If epithets were used regularly and casually, Bruce felt that the terminology would lose the power to hurt and offend. While that premise is arguable, what is inarguable is Bruce's courage and his commitment to the notion of free speech. Bankrupt and addicted, Bruce's life is not one to be envied; through him, and Marmo's stunning incarnation of him, we come to understand the profound meaning beneath the lyric "Tears of a Clown."

I Am Not a Comedian, I'm Lenny Bruce, is a dramatically packed 90 minutes in length. The lighting and projections done by Matt Richter are an essential element of this production as is the utilitarian production design by Danny Cistone.

What: I Am Not a Comedian, I'm Lenny Bruce  Who: Starring Ronnie Marmo, Directed by Joe Mantegna   When: Last four L.A. performances are at 8 p.m. on Saturday, September 1; Friday, September 7 Saturday, September 8; and Sunday, September 9 at 3 p.m.  Where: Theatre 68, 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood  Tickets: www.Theatre68.com or www.plays411.com/lennybruce  Note: Recommended for mature audiences (adult themes, profanity and nudity)