The Story of Bobbywood
By Fanny Garcia
In Bobbywood: Whatever Happened to Bobby the Bellboy, Bill Ratner tells the story of his uncle Robert Jellison who in 1954 was made a TV star by Desi Arnaz of I Love Lucy. Although he had various small parts on the show, he is best known as Bobby the Bellboy who worked at the hotel where Lucy and Ricky stayed in while living in Hollywood. Bobbywood is a snapshot of the point in which Mr. Ratner’s life intertwined with his Uncle Bobby’s.
Bobbywood is under the solo performance category of the Hollywood Fringe Festival but perhaps the Fringe should consider creating a category that truly reflects the genre this show and others like it, fit into. Storytelling is an art that should be recognized on its own. In fact, The Moth where Mr. Ratner is an eight-time winner of the Moth Story Slams, has a clear definition of the genre, “the art and craft of storytelling…is a celebration of both the raconteur, who breathes fire into true tales of ordinary life, and the storytelling novice, who has lived through something extraordinary and yearns to share it. At the center of each performance is, of course, the story.” These stories are presented live and without notes to small or large audiences.
The focus in Bobbywood was on the imagery of the story, not on theatrics. Is Bobbywood a solo solo show? Or is it a storytelling session? The answer is not clear-cut but there is a difference between the two. A solo performance on stage is an amalgamation of several theater elements ranging from vaudeville, music, dance, visual arts, magic and cabaret. A solo performance has a storyline and a clear plot. Bobbywood had little of either. Instead, it was a one hour anecdote.
Although, Mr. Ratner was accompanied by the musicianship of Jonathan Menchin on piano, the show lacked dynamism. Sydney Walsh directed Bobbywood but evidence of directorial input was difficult to see. Mr. Ratner’s movement was limited to a at position stage right, at stage left in front of a radio mike, or at center stage for most of the show. There was little energy in his attempts at characterization. It was clear the focus was not on theatricality but on the inflection of Mr. Ratner’s voice and tone to create a mood.
Several things in Mr. Ratner’s story were compelling; Mr. Ratner shared a touching and vivid event in which he traveled with his uncle to the Hollywood Forever Cemetery because it’s a “nice place to get together with old friends. Also intriguing was Mr. Ratner’s reveal that Desilu Productions that cheated his uncle and many other actors out of their residuals. It was a clear representation of the broken dreams of many artists experienced then and perhaps even now.
Storytelling has a place at theater festivals like Hollywood Fringe Festival. However, it is not under solo performance. Curating the festival would have placed this show into its own category, thereby marketing it to the right audience and ensuring more people saw the story of Bobby the Bellboy.
BOBBYWOOD: WHATEVER HAPPENED TO BOBBY THE BELLBOY?
Directed by Sydney Walsh
Written by Bill Ratner
The Complex Theaters
6476 Santa Monica Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA
Final Performance: Saturday, June 29th at 7:30 pm
Ticket information available at the Hollywood Fringe Festival Website.