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Lauderdale, March 24 - 26
If Josh Kornbluth werent so darn funny you might weep. This
hapless, clueless son of New York Communists (see earlier monologue Red
Diaper Baby) was eking out a living as a legal secretary (see film and monologue Haiku
Tunnel) just a few years ago. Living alone in a cheerless apartment in San
Francisco's Mission District, he occasionally performed to sparse audiences at The Marsh.
He also was haunted by ghosts. One, his beloved father, exhorted him never to give in to the Man and taught him how to sneak onto buses through the back door. His mothers voice echoed in his head, similarly urging him to resist the establishment. What can they do? Call you a pisher? she was fond of saying.
Which is essentially what happens when, as a result of his upbringing, natural laziness and ignorance of the consequences, Josh Kornbluth doesnt pay his income tax for seven years in a row.
And thereby hangs the tale. Love and Taxes, Kornbluths latest monologue, explores the perils of tax evasion, inadvertent or not, combined with the even greater perils of falling in love. And, if the name of the piece conjures up images of some of the great works of Russian literature like Crime and Punishment or Fathers and Sons it may not be coincidence. Kornbluths late father is a consistent frame of reference as his offspring bumbles his way through the system. And, while a pussycat like Kornbluth would no more do in his elderly landlady than he would take up bungee jumping, his punishment, by todays standards, is as Dostoyevskian as Raskolnikovs. A whopping $80,000 of indebtedness and a mere $32 in the bank!
Taxes are only one part of the problem. Sara (without the H), a kindergarten teacher in Vallejo who takes a long time getting places because she never makes left turns, wont marry Kornbluth although she longs to have his baby until the tax thing is cleared up. And theres a villain. Mo, a high priced holistic tax attorney is bent on taking everything he earns past, present and future. She nearly gets away with it too. Our heros journey takes him from poverty to a mild success (at one point, Hollywood calls) and back to near-bankruptcy. In his own words, he goes from nothing to way less than nothing. He also journeys from loneliness to love and a feckless innocence to a sense of responsibility so it may have been worth the trip after all.
So, who is this unlikely hero? For those who have yet to see the popular Bay Area performer, close your eyes and imagine a seriously balding Jewish Spalding Gray. Now conjure up an image of a younger, chubby Woody Allen only more neurotic, if such a thing is possible. Mix them together and you begin to get the picture. The affable Kornbluth tells his story as if for the first time, although the program credits director and collaborator David Dower, as well. He smiles and sweats and wipes his brow from time to time but there is little sense of a performance. He is, if nothing else, a natural raconteur.
Against ever changing rear projections that go from various offices to his apartment (during intermission, portions of the tax code flash onto the screen), he simply tells his story. And, hard to believe, it seems to be true. Even an 11th hour deus ex machina, a former fan who has struck it rich enough to risk a bailout, seems to be a real person. Josh Kornbluth is one lucky guy. It should happen to the rest of us. But, life being what it is, it probably wont. Moral: Dont fool around with the IRS.
Berkeley, CA, August 21, 2003 - Suzanne Weiss