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Reno calls 9/11: in her new concert film, out New York comic Reno riffs on the insanity of September 11.

Reno: Rebel Without a Pause

* Written and performed by Reno * Directed by Nancy Savoca * Seventh Art Releasing

Many of us who live a teardrop away from ground zero--I won't presume to speak for my neighbors--emerged from 9/11 scarred with smugness and humility. This was the smugness of a select society that knew something you didn't. A society that heard the crashes, witnessed the fires, watched people leap to their graves, fled the collapsing buildings, lived through autumn steeped in the stench of death and burning metal, managed for months without phone lines, and were forced to argue our way back home each day through police checks that made us feel like criminals in our own neighborhoods.

Humility, because we didn't do anything to join this select society. We were merely there. Many of us suffered apartment damage and displacement for a time. But we lived, we got along, we told our stories, and we put them away.

The out comedian Reno, a TriBeCa resident and a woman who lives in a perpetual state of high dudgeon, is not ready to put her stories away. She too speaks of the smugness of the ground zero residents in her spritz of anguish, Reno: Rebel Without a Pause, a filmed record of her successful 2002 stage monologue. She tells of the desperate need folks had to own a piece of the cataclysm, "a hierarchical bragging of pain and knowledge" that expressed itself in gotcha contests such as "I saw the first plane!" with the response "Yeah, well, I heard it take off from Logan!"

Kamikaze comic Reno knows that the mess that took a year to clean up in lower Manhattan has nothing on the mess our leaders are leaving around the world in the name of 9/11. Lower-Manhattanites may revel in her remembrances of the concerned phone calls from people you hadn't heard from in 20 years or the existential absurdity of yellow crime-scene tape wrapping entire blocks like some Christo artwork. But these observations are a mere warm-up for a breathless rant about the political body snatchers that have invaded America.

Reno lines the straight white men up like target practice tins and knocks them off one by one. Washington, D.C., is run by "religious freaks who haven't paid the U.N. bill for 11. years because of its policies on population control." John Ashcroft was so reviled in his home state of Missouri that When he ran for office and his opponent died, "they voted for the dead guy." She levels George W. by simply quoting him, always a wise strategy: "Mr. Laden is either in a cave with the door closed or in a cave with the door open."

Reno has so much spleen to vent that it is all she can do to stay on message, a problem underscored by the film's choppy editing. But as America suits up for war, you can't help but relate to the inner chaos and frustration reflected in this 71-minute reality check. Rebel Without a Pause is never more necessary than when it calls into question our own vulnerability to patriotic fervor. The performer listens with a pained expression to the song "God Bless America," then asks the audience what they thought. No one answers: You sense everyone's afraid to say the wrong thing and get her head chopped off. As it turns out, the song moved Reno, a fact that troubles her. Reno is really a closet softie with an in-your-face conscience.

Stuart is film critic and senior film writer at Newsday.
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Author:Stuart, Jan
Publication:The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)
Article Type:Movie Review
Date:Apr 15, 2003
Words:594
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