Theatre Review

Entertainment – Live Stage
Robbie Jensen: The 12 Steps of Christmas

by Gwen Hardin

If you want to learn how to live a “superlative” life, than Robbie Jensen’s dynamic life work event may be the seminar for you. Tony Matthews as the over confident Robbie Jensen gives a funny and touching character who leads his audience through the gradual decimation of his professional and personal life through his self proclaimed self-help seminars on living a focused superlative life. The one-man show with the direction of Craig Woolson (also the voice of the announcer), co-written by Matthews and Matt Schofield at the NoHo Arts Center, has the intimate feel of a real Tony Robbins-esque life improvement conference. This is mainly due to audience participation as Robbie talks directly to you with the belief you are there and in need of learning the many different steps on how to get rid of the “useless things about yourself”.
But along the way as the four acts are set up as different locations around different states, over the course of one year from December, Independence Day, October to the next December, Robbie’s life unravels, revealing itself in each seminar. At first we meet with enthusiastic, hand clapping, military chanting Robbie Jensen proudly promoting his self-help books, affectionately name dropping his wife, Kiki, selling his books at a large convention center in Woodland Hills, Ca. He introduces his story about his young friend Enrique from Colombia, coming from poor humble beginnings and how he has become a close friend of the family. Using a flatscreen for his Powepoint topics, Robbie also introduces himself, filmed talking with pauses for his own live response on how wonderful he feels and prepping the audience for a focused life altering seminar. This leads into teaching us where we place our values in life by drawing a four-quadrant chart. Robbie explains to us the audience how his cell phone fell into the toilet that morning, so must use his wife’s cell phone as an example. He goes down the listing of the most recent calls to display where values are placed, writing it down on the chart for all to see. As Robbie jots on the chart where each caller is placed as a value, Enrique’s name shows more often than Robbie expects, especially seeing what time the calls we’re placed. The conference ends with Robbie seeing the phone ring, Enrique calling again.
We see Robbie next in Philadelphia, still at a somewhat large space for his seminar. At this point in his life, Robbie explains how Kiki has left him for Enrique, and now cannot use his trademark words as they are now in litigation with his soon to-be ex-wife. We see an impatient angry host, frustrated but still enthusiastic in teaching us the steps to “having the life we don’t have”. By the end of this seminar he stomps off in frustration, annoyed with all the changes. By the next act we are no longer at the usual large convention centers, but in Des Moines, Iowa in a Hilton hotel ballroom. It is after the lunch break and Robbie comes back drunk and somewhat slurring. He finds two audience members that are a couple to find out where he can find for them a fault where they don’t agree on something. This brings a comedy of errors to the embarrassed couple, as Robbie tries to make a pass at the woman, as the man has to sit and watch.
By the last act, Robbie Jensen has been diminished to a small room at the Red Roof Inn in Beaumont, Ca. It is December near the holidays once more but in comparison to the person he was a year ago, he is dressed as a wanna-be Jesus with a wig and fake beard, which does not last long. He has discovered from AA, that their twelve-step program can sized down to five adopting it to his program, now without a logo or catchphrase. A baby picture of Robbie pops up on the Powerpoint and here he enlightens himself with the realization he must be honest with him self. He apologizes that he must leave to start over his life again with the quest to find who the real Robbie Jensen is. But, not before one last military hand clapping chant with the audience as a last rally and ode to the beginning of Robbie Jensen’s own path to a superlative life.

Show runs :
Fri, Nov 13 – Sun, Dec 20
Friday, Saturday 8 PM
Sunday 3 PM

(323) 960-1053

NoHo Arts Center
11136 Magnolia Blvd.
N. Hollywood, CA  91601
Street Parking

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