By Doug Holder

Reno: Rebel Without Pause

Reno is not a shrinking violet, a wallflower, a fragile female character from a Tennessee Williams’ play. Reno is a performer who throughout her career has belted out her outrage, her unique take on life and events, or whatever caught her discerning eye. In her latest one woman performance piece: “Rebel Without A Pause,” this mercurial monologist gives the audience her testimony concerning the events of Sept 11 that she personally witnessed. Reno writes: “I hope that the boundaries of the Publica Americana crumbled sufficiently on 9/11 and that the recognition of our having become a part of the world’s neighborhood occurred. What I’ve been seeing and hearing in and around the show I’ve been doing: “Rebel Without A Pause” hints that this has indeed happened-- and that the more responsible position ... will transfer to the theatre with a demand for more plays that take the big picture into account.”

Reno, who hails from NYC, is a “stream of consciousness,” performer with a strong comedic bent. Her shows have run Off-Broadway, in top shelf regional theatres, and performance venues. She also has worked as an actor, most notably in Tony Kushner’s (“Angels in America”) “A Bright Room Called Day.” In 1998 she made her first feature movie, “ Reno Finds Her Mom”, that tracks her tracking down her biological mom who gave her up for adoption. HBO produced the film, and Lily Tomlin and Mary Tyler Moore made special appearances in it. “Reno: Rebel Without A Pause” opened on Oct 24, 2001 at “La Mama” in New York City to critical acclaim. In Sept. 2004 Reno took her performance to Davis Square and the “ Jimmy Tingle Theatre.”

In a phone interview before the show, Reno answered the call with a brassy and perfunctory “Yeah.” There was more than a hint of a New York accent and attitude about the woman.. She came across as a hybrid of the firebrand feminist powder keg Bell Abzug and a wisecracking New York City hack. Reno explained that she hoped to “... bridge the gap between the official account of 9/11, and what was really happening,” with her performance of “Rebel Without a Pause.” She said: “ I will try to forge a bond with the audience, through a non-linear presentation”

The audience at “Jimmy Tingle’s Off Broadway Theatre” was peppered with a mix of Gay and Straight couples, decidedly graying at the edges, but their was a smattering of younger folks as well. The stage was simply appointed: with a table, some bottled water, and a chair. RENO appeared on stage like a force-of-nature, her hair a curly chaotic mop, while she manically monologued like an Ethel Merman on speed. RENO, lives very near the site of the “Twin Towers”, and used the horrendous events of 9/11 she experienced as a focal point for her charged agenda that she bombastically fed to a very receptive audience. The piece: “Rebel: Without A Pause” was aptly named, because the performer barely stopped for a breath for close to two hours. The topics she covered in the context of 9/11 were prolific, including President Bush ( “ He was appointed by his brother”), Creation Science ( “Creation is bullshit, science is real”), Lesbians who want children, ( “ I don’t want to touch a penis, but I want children!”), John Ashcroft ( “ He wants to refashion the “Bill of Rights” into the “New Testament”). Every so often Reno would “pause” to catch her breath, and let the audience contemplate the events of that infamous day. She had a fly-on-the-wall account of how this arcane band of everyday New Yorkers responded to this crisis. The audience, for the most part, seemed to be familiar with RENO act , and often laughed riotously at her heated barbs and caustic brand of levity. RENO did have a tendency to milk the material a bit longer than was prudent, but she left the audience energized, and perhaps enlightened about that tragic day, just three years ago.

Doug Holder-- Doug Holder is the Arts/Editor for The Somerville News, and founder of the Ibbetson Street Press of Somerville, Mass.