Presented by Martin Melzer, Stephen Melzer, Leonard Soloway, and Steven M. Levy at the Cort Theatre, 138 W. 48 St., NYC. Opened Aug. 6 for an open run.
For a prime lesson in making art out of life, catch "If You Ever Leave Me…I'm Going with You!" at the Cort Theatre. This two-hander is a "greatest bits" revue of the life and work of Renée Taylor and Joseph Bologna. Like a comic Steve and Eydie, this married duo performs scenes from the plays, movies, and TV specials they've written over the past 35 years, interspersed with anecdotes about their own union—and how the reality differed or coincided with the fiction.
Taylor met her future husband when he was a director of TV commercials and she came in for an audition. That scene was theatricalized in their play "It Had To Be You," and is the first sketch of the current program. There follow riffs on pre-wedding jitters, the proper way for spouses to battle, relations with in-laws, and, finally, geriatric romance. There is a little too heavy of an emphasis on the latter with two different scenes of basically the same situation: elderly seductions launched by bizarre dance bits played for easy laughs. Fortunately, most of the guffaws are derived from character rather than shtick.
The performance attended was a Wednesday matinee, with the perfect audience for this type of vehicle. At first, Bologna appeared to be holding back, perhaps saving himself for the evening show. But he finally lets loose when playing a version of his crusty Italian father, expertly timing annoyed reactions to Taylor's endless nagging. Taylor gives a more consistent performance. She's an inspired physical and vocal comedienne who knows just when to take a pratfall or high-pitch her nasal voice.
In addition to writing credits, the couple also shares staging duties. Apart from some video problems, the 90 minutes moved quickly enough with the aid of Kenneth Foy's backstage set, Alvin Colt's versatile costumes, and Ken Billington's scene-shifting lighting.