February 4, 2020
‘Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It’ – positive gains for all
By John Busbee for The Culture Buzz
Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It delivered unexpected dividends and delights in Central Iowa on opening night. The old adage “yeh, but will it play in Des Moines” was answered by an enthusiastic, boisterous audience consuming this like a starving person presented a bountiful feast. This metaphor is apt, as this show is anchored in body evalution, self-image and personal perception. It never crosses the preachy guilt line. Instead, it is revealing, inspirational and will prove to be a performance piece that separates itself from many other wannabes that blend performance art, memoir and comedy.
This show is a signature tour de force for its creator and namesake, and brings the audience into a special relationship with Lampanelli and her talented trio of fellow cast members. While the show constantly flits into the land of expected raw language and references, the content resonates boldly. The energy is a positive force which radiates throughout the performing hall. In short, Lampanelli has gifted us with a magical next-evolution experience of her complex career and life. It is a most fulfilling experience.
Upon entering the Temple Theater, the blank canvas is set. Booming rock music, a stage with four chairs, four stands, two tables and four glasses of water. And, a growing sense of anticipation as the music finally brings the host of the show, Frank Liotti, onto the stage for a splendid theme-setting monologue before introducing Lampanelli and the rest of the troupe. Under the guidance of experienced producer Staci Levine (having produced shows featuring Patti LuPone, Mandy Patinkin and John Lithgow), this no-intermission gem engages, entertains and informs – a true trifecta in the performing arts world.
Lampanelli surrounds herself with exceptional performers, each with the talent to headline their own show. Their performances are enhanced with the instinctive trust of a longtime band of friends, willing to support each other in their quest to deliver a great show. Mission accomplished.
Each performer has featured monologues, personal revelations that connect and are very relatable. Liotti taps into the humor, angst and struggles he conquered, yet still battles on a daily basis. His honesty and energy are poignant and powerful. Marissa Rosen shares her epiphanic journey into understanding herself, her mother and their relationship, finding peace with herself after many challenges. Eden Malyn seems incongruent with this cast, not quite the misfit as the others appear to be. Her story, however, shows that there are volumes of unexpected stories written inside the human book covers we all present to the world. These stories bound Lisa Lampanelli’s Losin’ It in an “everyperson” way that rippled throughout the room. Lampanelli provides the quintessential glue that holds this brilliant concept and delivery together. Personable, sassy, transparent, edgy – she reflects a more thoughtful, mature and empathetic woman who has evolved in a beautiful way. The sardonic edge that launched her career was tempered. Her story about finding “Big Frank,” whom she believed was “the one,” was a masterful blend of comedy, revelation and confession. Adding to the undeniable impact of this story was Rosen’s portrayal of Big Frank – she didn’t just portray him, she was him. Lampanelli created a flood of heart pangs from the complex relationship she conveyed.
Adding additional texture and value, the quartet delivered a hyper-reader’s theatrical connectivity between the solo performances. Timing was impeccable, pacing lively, nuance exceptional. These moments held an almost intuitive flow that carried the audience along the themes and stories. The unexpected “dessert” to this feast was Lampanelli fielding questions from the audience. These spontaneous, candid exchanges sealed the performers/audience bond and were filled with heartfelt inspiration and ideas. This reviewer was sated.
The Culture Buzz theatre reviews are written by professional critics, to inform and enlighten. To receive weekly newsletters, email TheCultureBuzz@gmail.com or visit www.theculturebuzz.com. The Culture Buzz is a weekly broadcast/streaming arts & entertainment show, airing Wednesdays 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM Central Time on KFMG 98.9 FM and streaming at www.kfmg.org.