Comedy is rarely timeless. In Lenny Bruce’s case, his relevance comes from his reminders of First Amendment rights, especially when those in power threaten those rights. “I’m not a comedian… I’m Lenny Brucea one-man, one-act show written and starring by Ronnie Marmo,limited Run Friday and Saturday at the Byham Theater.
Directed by Joe Mantegna, this play follows the life and death of a comedian. Lenny Bruce, comedy pioneer. Bruce was known for his controversial acts and frequently spoke about social taboos such as religion, racism, gender identity, and censorship.
The set for this piece was simple: two chairs, a toilet, blues and a mic stand.
Ronnie Marmo said he starred for the first time as Bruce in the 2010 play “Lenny Bruce is Back (and the Boy is Pissed)” written by Sam Bobrick and Julie Stein. After the run, he wanted to create his own production and delve deeper into Bruce’s life and comedy.
“I found myself doing a safer version of Lenny than I wanted. I started writing it myself, but it took me five years to write it,” said Marmo. “Through that process, I fell in love with telling Lenny’s story and thought it was important to write my own version and tell the story as a whole.”
That play became I’m Not a Comedian…I’m Lenny Bruce, which premiered in Los Angeles in 2017 and hit Off-Broadway in 2018. Police arrested the comedian on numerous charges of obscenity throughout his 50s and 60s until his death in 1966.
One person arrested for obscenity Illinois Supreme CourtBruce won because his speech had social value and was therefore protected. Even after this monumental incident, Bruce continued to be arrested, Malmo said.
“He was sentenced to four months in prison on Rikers Island,” Malmo added.
The idea of ”verbal” punishment is an overarching theme throughout the play. During his career, the police called Bruce “cocksucker,” “fuck,” or “comeduring various stand-up sets. Sometimes they arrested him for not using profanity and instead making comments about religion or race.
Marmo believes Bruce’s controversy and outspoken voice are what made him a comedy pioneer.
“He was a voice of truth to power. He was a mirror to society. There is one person who opens the ,” Marmo said. “He influenced law as well as comedy. He was a satirist. ”
According to Malmo, it’s important for young people to learn about both the play and the legacy of the blues. Initially, he hoped the play would travel the college circuit, but he said he was grateful that local college students in Pittsburgh and beyond would have the opportunity to see the production.
“The First Amendment is always a hot topic, but it has never been more hot than it is now … What fascinated me was Lenny Bruce and his voice to young people. Many people of the generation don’t know who he was or who they are.’ You may know him fromof The Marvelous Mrs. Maiselsaid Marmo.
A fictional version of Bruce is portrayed in “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”. Luke KirbyThe show has led to a wider audience recognizing both Bruce and his comedy.
Although Amazon Prime’s shows and plays are set in the ’50s and ’60s, theater critics still praise the show’s relevance today. TheaterMania’s Zachary Stewart said: review of the play in which Marmo provided a raw portrayal of Bruce’s life.
“Malmo painfully demonstrates the price paid by Lenny Bruce, allowing the rest of us to enjoy the relatively liberal interpretation of the First Amendment that prevails today. “He also wonders who is willing to pay the price again.”
Bruce’s personal life was often grim, without the help of endless legal battles. Bruce struggled with addiction and died of a drug overdose in 1966. Today, Kitty Bruce, Bruce’s only child, Lenny Bruce Memorial Foundation A portion of the play’s proceeds will be donated to foundations aimed at combating drug and alcohol addiction.
Marumo said that being a one-man show, he relied on both the audience’s and his own energy during the performance. The moments during the show when Bruce isn’t doing his stand-up are especially chilling.
“It’s a very humble show. Basically, I’m doing a 90-minute monologue to the audience…I start the play naked in the bathroom and don’t stop for 90 minutes,” Marmo said. I was. “If you asked me what my favorite routine was after the show, it would be different every night.”
After playing the role more than 400 times in five years, Marmo said that although his relationship with Bruce has evolved, he still feels integral to Bruce and the production.
“I have endorsed him so often at the group level that I felt like I was fighting for him.Overall I feel like he and I are together in this fight. He’s the voice that people want to hear right now,” Marmo said. “It’s important to me to start the conversation… Lenny used to say there are no foul language, only foul hearts. We give power to words.”