Sunday, September 26, 2004

Play: Tax Attack

Love and Taxes written and performed by Josh Kornbluth, INTIMAN theatre, through 2 October.

So up until yesterday, the only person I would listen to talk about taxes for two hours straight was my wife the tax preparer (the two-day-long Enrolled Agent examination went well, and we await the results). Now Kate is joined in that elite circle by the monologist Josh Kornbluth. And don't tell Kate, but Kornbluth is funnier on the subject.

Kornbluth does monologues, similar to Mike Daisey, who did 21 Dog Years, earlier reviewed in this space. Kornbluth has the similar monolog equipment - the table, the drink, the chair, and that wrinkle of the 21st century, the titanium powerbook. And he has his story, pulled from his own life.

An autobiographic monologist like Kornbluth, Daisey, or Spauling Grey has a problem - your first monolog is usually personal, about your life. It covers up to the point where you did that first monologue. OK, if that's successful, what do you do for an encore? Now doing the original monologue is a part of your life, so you have to address it in your future work. So your life affects your work which affects your life which, of course, affects your work. So there's a little recapping to do for those who were not there for his first monologue.

And the monologue is about Kornbluth, who because of his family background (Communist) and his working situation (temping for a corporate tax firm) hadn't paid his taxes for a number of years, existing around, underneath, and beside the System. Now he suddenly re-enters the tax-paying universe with the options picked up on his early plays by Hollywood, which in turn creates a huge tax bill which he then must pay off if wants to marry the young woman who he met because of his original monologues. In many ways this is a sequel, but you don't need to see the first real - he'll fill you in.

Now what's really cool about Kornbluth's storytelling is how everything pulls together. What seems like an off-hand observation in the first twenty minutes comes back again and again as a recurrent theme. Side-stories that just seem to be there for support of a major point become plot points themselves. Punchlines are setup in his life years in advance. It looks like he sprawls, but everying has its place in the entire story. This is well-written, well-thought-out, and well-honed, and is a delight.

Kornbluth's stage personality is definitely a shlub. Not a mensh or a schmuck (though there are tendencies of both), and he's not quite thin enough to be a nebbish. He's likeable, he's warm, he's flawed and very much aware of his flaws. He's trapped beneath a landslide of reality that he in part set off himself. and owning up to responsibility (or at least owning up to the fact that you have to own up) is a major theme of the play.

I enjoyed it, so much so, that I bought the collection of his previous monologues during the intermission (Note to Mr Kornbluth if he finds this entry - yeah, that was me). Kate, with her tax background, howled (Note to Mr. Kornbluth if his finds this entry - yeah, she was the one shrieking in laughter in the center section, about halfway up). Its a sweet, tender, real, funny show about love and about taxes. It runs for another week at the INTIMAN, and if you get a chance, go see it.

More later,