On stage: Married for laughs
Husband-wife comedy team finds love every night on the boards.
Daily Breeze March 10, 2006
BY JEFF FAVRE
It's hard to know whether it's more frustrating or cute that Renée Taylor doesn't want to wake up Joe Bologna for a 9 a.m. interview.
It's wonderful to hear Taylor's care and concern for her husband of 40 years. On the other hand, it's hard to ask the couple about reviving their most popular play, "It Had to Be You," for the Hermosa Beach Playhouse, if half of the writing/acting duo is asleep.
But it gives Taylor, best known for her Emmy-nominated role of Fran Drescher's mother on "The Nanny," a chance to talk about the play without any interruption.
"It Had to Be You" is inspired by anecdotes of how Taylor, 72, and Bologna, 71, met. In the fictitious version, Taylor is Thada Blau, a B-movie actress whose time for a big break -- and true love -- appears all but over. She meets successful TV commercial director Vito Pignoli (Bologna), and, on Christmas Eve, she holds him hostage in her apartment trying to persuade him to make both of her dreams come true.
The play premiered on Broadway in 1981, was turned into a film eight years later, and has been performed by actors of varying ages for the last quarter-century.
"For me, it's a chance to play with my husband, which is great," said Taylor, who met Bologna while auditioning for a commercial. "Every night I have fun deciding at what point I am going to fall in love with him. I never know when it's going to be."
In real life, the couple's blooming romance took longer, but not by much. Taylor has said it was love at first sight. They were engaged three months after they met and their 1965 wedding was taped for broadcast on "The Merv Griffin Show," for which Taylor worked.
Their first collaboration was the play "Lovers and Other Strangers," which was turned into a 1970 film and netted the couple an Academy Award nomination for best screenplay. Other plays include "Made for Each Other" and "Bermuda Avenue Triangle."
Before Taylor could explain their writing process, she said, "Wait, Joe's up." A minute later, the tag team phone call continued.
"This was the hardest and most rewarding thing we've ever written," Bologna said. "It's a two-character play that takes place in real time. At first we set the play over six months, then one month and then one week. But it never worked until we made it happen in one night. That's because it made the feelings more intense."
Bologna and Taylor quit performing the play in the 1980s. A couple of years ago they decided to stage revivals around the country.
"I thought we might be too old to do it," Bologna admitted. "I mean there are actors in their 20s doing this play. But in a strange way, it works even better for us now. That's because as senior citizens you get a real sense of desperation for these characters, like this really is the last chance for them."
And though it doesn't appear that Bologna and Taylor are at the end of their creative successes, they know about lost chances. Their last time on Broadway was with, "If you ever leave me ... I'm going with you." It opened Aug. 6, 2001. Like many Broadway shows, it closed because the 9-11 tragedy severely curtailed ticket sales.
"It was so hard, because we wanted to grieve for our show, but how could you with what was going on," Bologna explained. "The one good thing is that the last two weeks we were open, we got to perform for families of firefighters and aid workers. I thought, 'How can we do comedy?' But it was gratifying to perform for those people, and to help in that small way."
It's events such as 9-11 that daily remind Bologna of the good aspects of his life, and it's those feelings, he said, that he and Taylor try to infuse into their characters.
"I wake up every morning and I ask myself, 'Do I have my physical health? Do I have my creativity? Do I have love?' If the answer to those three questions is yes, then everything else is secondary," he said.
And thanks to a thoughtful wife, Bologna also is certain to get enough sleep.
Jeff Favre is a freelance entertainment writer based in Los Angeles.
Marriage Made on Stage
By Michael Hixon, March 2, 2006
The Beech Reporter
Married for 40 years, Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna take their writing and acting talents to the stage with their play ‘It Had to be You’ opening next week at the Hermosa Beach Playhouse.
Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna's partnership on stage and screen has lasted nearly as long as their 40-year marriage.
Soon after the New York natives married in 1965 he, a struggling director, and she, a successful writer and actress, co-wrote the Broadway play “Lovers and Other Strangers,” in which Bologna made his professional acting debut. The screen adaptation of “Lovers and Other Strangers” was nominated for a 1971 Oscar for best adapted screenplay.
Since that success, Taylor and Bologna have continued writing and starred in numerous films, television shows and on stage, including “It Had to be You,” which opens at the Hermosa Playhouse March 7.
In “It Had to be You,” Taylor plays desperate, failed actress Theda Blau who holds successful director Vito Pignolia hostage on a Christmas Eve until she gets a career revival.
“We thought it would be fun to do a two-character play about people who fall in love and then she holds him hostage in her apartment until he gives her everything she wants,” said Taylor. “We thought it would be fun to write it and act in it. I was well-known when I met Joe and he was the struggling one, so it's a role reversal.”
Bologna and Taylor were married on the Merv Griffin Show in 1965, and after “Lovers and Other Strangers,” they co-wrote “Made for Each Other,” which was Bologna's feature film acting debut. They received an Emmy nomination for co-writing the television special “Acts of Love and Other Comedies” and collaborated in the special “Bedrooms,” the CBS series “Calucci's Department,” the Emmy-nominated CBS special “Paradise,” the feature film “Love is All There Is,” the play “If You Ever Leave Me, I'm Going With You” and the film adaptation of “It Had to Be You” in 1989, among other projects.
Besides starring in feature films and television, including earning an Emmy nomination as Fran Drescher's mother in “The Nanny,” Taylor is the author of the satire on “how to” celebrity health books, “My Life on a Diet.” Bologna's acting career has also prospered with roles in “My Favorite Year,” “The Woman in Red” and “Blame it on Rio.” He currently has a recurring role in “According to Jim” as Jim Belushi's father.
Bologna said he and his wife's mutual talents have created a solid team for the past 40 years.
“Renee and I, we just have that fit because I'm farsighted and she's nearsighted,” Bologna said. “I'm a telescope and she's a microscope. I see the big picture and she sees the details. We write separately but we write better together because I know she can add bring stuff to the table better than I in certain areas and vice versa. It becomes a great joy. We're most happy when we are doing it together.”
Bologna added, “I brought something to her and she brought something to me, and that's a wonderful thing. A lot of married couples can't work together and that's usually because they do the same thing. I could not work with somebody who did the same thing I did. We would be vying for the same job, not out of competition, but out of the fact that we're both being creative in the same place. When Renee and I are writing, once we get the idea and the image of what we're going for, that's usually the most difficult thing, agreeing on what to write. We're looking at stuff from two different perspectives, the woman's point of view and the man's point of view.”
“It's a lot of fun and we love each other,” Taylor added. “We don't know why other people don't like to work together but when you love each other it's a lot of fun. For me it comes easy. I look at him and things happen. Every night I think, ‘When am I going to fall in love with him tonight?'”
Bologna, 68, said he and Taylor, 70, are fortunate to continue working together after 40 years. They will be together in “It Had to be You” through March 19 at the Hermosa Playhouse.
“At our age so many of our friends, not only actors but writers, sit around and wait for the phone to ring,” Bologna said. “As you get older, the phone doesn't ring that often because there's not that many parts. We're so fortunate that we don't have to sit around and wait for the phone to ring. We do this other thing that we love more than anything and when the phone rings, ‘Yeah, that's nice, I'll do that or no I don't like that.'”
“It's like when you're eating steak it's hard to eat McDonalds,” he added. “That's what it's like to do our play. When that curtain goes up, when I'm backstage and hear the pre-show music playing, I say, ‘Thank you, God.' I notice how fortunate I am that I'm able at this point in my life to be able to express myself fully with the woman I love.”
Hostages of humor
Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna find comedy through their repartee in 'It Had to Be You.'
BY CATEY SULLIVAN
SKOKIE REVIEW, IL, Wk July 8, 2004
For two people that have been partners in professional and personal life for since they married on "The Merv Griffin Show" in 1965, Renee Taylor and Joe Bologna disagree a fair amount.
"Sex and fun," Taylor says when asked the secret of the performing duo's remarkable success both on- and off-stage.
"No. Sex and pasta," Bologna corrects.
Then there's their difference of opinion on the hostage element of "It Had to Be You," a show they wrote and star in together beginning Wednesday at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts in Skokie, in a show presented by Centre East.
Billed as a "semi-autobiographical tale," "It Had to Be You" tells the story of Theda (Taylor) and Vito (Bologna).
She is a desperate B-actress of a certain age. He is a successful commercial television producer. She holds him captive in her apartment, swearing not to let him go until he is: A. In love with her; and B. Willing to give jump-start her career.
So, hostage taking -- fact or falsehood?
"Semi-autobiographical? I don't know where they get that stuff," Bologna says of the publicity preceding the show.
Taylor begs to differ.
"It is autobiographical. Sort of," she counters. "I've been married to him for 39 years. In that respect, we've been holding each other hostage."
It has been a captivity of collaboration on both parts.
Taylor and Bologna followed up their nationally televised wedding by starring together on Broadway in a play they co-wrote, "Lovers and Other Strangers." Six years later, they were up for a screenplay Oscar for the movie version of the same show.
Among other highlights on their joint résumé, the couple wrote and starred in the 1985 film "Made for Each Other," won an Emmy for "Acts of Love and Other Comedies" and co-wrote, co-starred and co-directed "Love is All There Is, " a 1996 love story starring a little-known actor named Angelina Jolie.
When Taylor got a role on "The Nanny" as the title character's flamboyant mother Sylvia, Bologna guest-starred as Sylvia's lover.
The pair last came through Chicago several years ago, starring in another show they penned, "If You Ever Leave Me ... I'm Going With You."
Playing off each other like a pair of skilled vaudevillians, Taylor and Bologna provide patter on their first, fateful introduction.
She: "I looked into his eyes and thought, 'This is the man I am going to marry.'"
He: "I looked into her eyes and thought, 'This woman is looking at me really funny.'"
Theirs was a superficially unlikely love match. Taylor was Jewish, raised in a family trained in Yiddish theater. Bologna was an Italian-American Catholic and didn't make his professional stage debut until after his marriage.
They made it work.
"I celebrate everything," Taylor says of the religious holidays.
"And I celebrate nothing," Bologna quips.
Their son, both note, speaks fluent Italian, and is a Holocaust scholar.
"It Had To Be You" is one of the team's older bits of writing, having first opened on Broadway in 1981. In the intervening years, it has toured the country in revivals starring the likes of Tony Danza and Carol Kane. The show also surprised both Bologna and Taylor by becoming a big hit in Greece last year, Bologna said.
The plot may seem extreme, Taylor adds, but Theda's method of achieving her goals seems to ring a chord with audiences.
"I've met a lot of women who say, 'I'd like to get a guy in a room and not let him out until he gets me what I want,' " she says.
Over the years, Taylor and Bologna insist, "It Had To Be You" has only gotten better.
"We're a little older than we were when it first opened, so the characters are a little more desperate. The audience catches on to that," Taylor said.
It's one thing, Bologna noted, to hold someone hostage for love and a career in one's 30s or 40s -- one can rebound from that sort of thing if it doesn't work out. But taking such extreme measures as senior citizen, well, "you're probably on your last chance," she said.
"There's a sense that, yes, this is the last chance these two people have to find love and success in their lives," Bologna said.
And their ever-growing relationship as husband and wife makes the show all the richer, Taylor added.
"I'd rather do this show with Joe than anybody else in the world," she said.
"That's true," Bologna added, "Last week, she turned down Johnny Depp."
"It Had To Be You" will be performed July 14-28 at 2 and 7:30 p.m. Wednesdays; 7:30 p.m. Thursdays; 8 p.m. Fridays; 5 and 8 p.m. Saturdays and at 3 p.m. Sundays at the North Shore Center for the Performing Arts, 9501 Skokie Blvd., Skokie. Tickets are $36-$42. For more information, call (847) 673-6300 or see www.centreeast.org.
With this comic pair, it has to be good
Published: Saturday, March 29, 2003
Watching Renee Taylor and Joseph Bologna lobbing lines back and forth is like seeing Venus and Serena Williams square off on the tennis court, or like savoring George Burns and Gracie Allen in their heyday.
The timing? Exquisite. Each one's awareness of the other? Impeccable. The cumulative effect? Quintessential entertainment.
The longtime spouses are back at Fort Lauderdale's Parker Playhouse for a brief run in their 1981 Broadway play It Had To Be You. Taylor, who had a long run as Fran Drescher's mother on TV's The Nanny, and Bologna, whose movie roles range from the Sid Caesar-style character in My Favorite Year to Adam Sandler's understandably judgmental father in Big Daddy, slip effortlessly (they make it look effortless, anyway) back into custom-tailored roles that they also played in a 1989 movie version.
Taylor is Theda Blau, a failed B-movie actress, failed playwright, failed romantic and all-around kook. She meets Bologna's character, ad man Vito Pignoli, at a Christmas Eve audition for a commercial pitching a cocktail mix. Something about the eccentric, oddly funny actress intrigues Vito, so he offers to share a cab with her, then to help her carry her shopping bags into her crowded studio apartment. Major mistake.
Theda seduces Vito (a snap, given the fact that she's wearing nothing under her pinkish fur coat), then blindsides him by declaring herself ready to partner with him personally and professionally. Vito, a sleep-around kind of guy, correctly surmises that Theda may very well be insane and gets ready to leave. But one thing after another, most engineered by Theda, conspires to keep him captive.
The quirkiness of It Had To Be You takes some almost surrealistic turns, but Taylor and Bologna make each little twist pay off. Sure, they're older (and aren't we all?), but these masters of the nonsequitur and deadpan delivery have a charismatic comic connection that endures.
Christine Dolen is The Herald's theater critic.
BOCA RATON NEWS/WEEKEND
‘You’ had to be a big success, and rewritten version is
Published Thursday, March 20, 2003 by Skip Sheffield
Renee Taylor and Joe Balogna star in a newly edited production of “It Had To Be You” at Parker Playhouse.
Renee Taylor looked at Joe Bologna back in 1965 and thought, “It Had To Be You.”
The couple was married on the Merv Griffin Show that same year, and they have been together ever since.
One of the most successful Taylor-Bologna collaborations was the loosely autobiographical “It Had To Be You” in 1981. More than 20 years later, the couple is reprising their roles of failed actress, health nut, analyst and aspiring playwright Theda Blau (Taylor) and hugely successful television commercial producer Vito Pignolia (Bologna) in a newly edited production of “It Had to Be You,” opening Tuesday and running through April 6 at Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.
“We’ve rewritten the characters for our own age,” says Taylor. “They were originally in their 30s. I think having them older makes the play both funnier and more poignant.”
In the play, Taylor’s desperate actress holds Bologna’s successful director hostage in her apartment on a snowy Christmas Eve. The couple last performed the play in our area 20 years ago at the Burt Reynolds Dinner Theatre.
“Working with the Burt Reynolds apprentices was a very rewarding experience,” says Bologna, 64. “We still hear from some of them. I was glad to learn the Jupiter Theatre is being revitalized. It was a great place.”
Taylor and Bologna have been on of the most successful, enduring couples in show business. Their first play, “Lovers and Other Strangers,” was a hit that launched Bologna’s Broadway acting career. In 1971 they co-wrote “Made for Each Other,” which launched Bologna’s film career. Most recently they toured the country with “If You Ever Leave Me … I’m Going With You.”
“We were going well in New York until 9-11,” Taylor reveals. “Of course, a lot of things changed after that.”
This is only the second stop for the new edition of “It Had To Be You,” after a one-week tryout in Phoenix, Arizona.
“We always love coming back to Florida,” says Taylor. “The audience treats us like family, and in a way we are. I think now more than ever we need a few good laughs, and this show should provide it.”
Tickets are $42-$49. Call (866) 204-2502 for information and group rates.
Copyright 2003 - Boca Raton News
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