Review by GRAY PALMERJune 10, 2016
What I liked
Tony Danza’s Letters to Tupac: An Evening with Tony Danza
Reviewed by Gray Palmer
Shepard Studio Theater at Complex Theatres
Through June 18
Tony Danza, veteran sit-com star of Taxi, Who’s the Boss, etc., achieves dizzy comic levitation in his solo show Tony Danza’s Letters to Tupac at the Hollywood Fringe (or he would if that were him, but it’s impersonator Steven Benaquist).
The show, delightful culture-jamming foolery, begins in 1995 with Danza asking his daughter, “Why should you care about a guy with ‘Thug Life’ tattooed across his abdomen?” Her answer, of course, is that she likes the great rapper’s songs. After listening to “Dear Mama,” he gets it: “My heart was on the floor. He loves his mother! I love my mother!” And he writes a letter to Tupac, who was then serving time for his conviction on sexual assault charges.
Tupac writes back. “Why should I even write back? You’re probably not Tony Danza.” So Danza sends a meatball in the next letter as proof. And so it goes, with Danza offering brotherly moral guidance and Tupac complaining about his “inspirational bullshit.”
By the conclusion Danza is claiming, “I’m one of Tupac’s n-words!” as he tap-dances in the style of Sammy Davis, Jr. (well, a tap impression with tap sounds added by foley) and sings along, Snoop Doggy style, in a duo with Tupac (but no hologram).
This is an excellent, pixilated performance by Benaquist as Danza, and a great pen-pal collision that might have been.
What I didn't like
My overall impression
I indicated this in the lede of my review published in “Stage Raw” and again in the closing paragraph. Benaquist’s humor is savvy culture-jamming collision of pop-perspectives, and especially of the inept lumpen-liberal view of racial inequities.