It’s being billed as “Absolutely, positively Rita’s last show ever in 2018.”
That is unless Rita Rudner can somehow get out the door of Laguna Playhouse before midnight on New Year’s Eve, dash over to another venue and squeeze in just one more show before we turn the page on this year.
It is possible because at her event the page is turned on the old year at 9 p.m. PST – that is, midnight EST. Some of those revelers, Rudner points out, just might indeed get in one last party or two before calling it night.
Not likely for herself, though. The comedian, who is also an author, playwright, screenwriter and actor, is intent on “a civilized New Year’s Eve.”
Rudner has been performing since the age of 15, when she arrived in New York to become a dancer on Broadway. While appearing in shows like “Follies” and “Annie,” she began exploring the comedy clubs of Manhattan, making the leap from chorus lines to punchlines in the early 1980s.
Her Vegas engagement is the longest-running solo show in city history, and her latest TV special, “A Tale of Two Dresses,” which premiered in September, is available to watch on demand.
The intimacy of Laguna Playhouse’s 407-seat venue and its location are ideal for Rudner and her husband, British producer Martin Bergman, who live in Dana Point when not at their primary residence in Vegas.
Rudner’s first show at Laguna was 2012’s “Tickled Pink,” based on her novel of the same name. In January 2016, Bergman directed Rudner and co-star Charles Shaughnessy in “Act 3,” the play’s U.S. premiere.
Her most recent Laguna show was “Two’s a Crowd,” co-written by Rudner and Bergman, with music by local singer/songwriter Jason Feddy. The Laguna Beach staging in September was the show’s world premiere, with its New York premiere slated for next summer.
And the Laguna Beach venue has been her Dec. 31 home since doing her first New Year’s Eve solo show there in 2014.
The New Year’s Eve show is, like all of her Laguna Playhouse projects with Bergman, a family affair. Joining Rudner is daughter Molly Bergman, who will sing and play guitar.
The 16-year-old and singer Peyton Goss will perform a playlist of well-known pieces and some original songs, from 6:30 p.m. until Rudner starts her show at 7.
Rudner said the event has sold out for each of the last four years. As for the comedy, don’t expect topical or political humor. That’s just not her bag.
“I don’t do politics,” she said. “People have had enough politics in the year behind and the year ahead.”
Typical of her non-Las Vegas solo comedy turns, Rudner focuses on “life and love, being married 30 years and having a teenage daughter, and not being good with technology.”
Rudner said she, Bergman and the Laguna Playhouse brass developed the idea in 2014 “that we could celebrate with New York City when the ball drops at midnight, when it’s only 9 p.m. here.”
In a half-jesting tone, Rudner said “it was a long time ago when Martin started to feel sorry for me having to work on New Year’s Eve.”
“With people so ready to drink, and blowing horns and noisemakers, it’s really hard for people to concentrate,” Rudner joked.
That gave rise to the concept of a New Year’s Eve show that essentially ends three hours before most of the craziness begins.
Rudner said that in the years since the show debuted, a reliable format has developed: “At 7 you go in and you laugh. At 8:30 you drink champagne and eat cake. At 9 p.m. the ball drops in New York, at midnight there, and balloons fall from the theater ceiling.”
“And then you leave and you’re home by 10 and don’t have to be out with everyone around you screaming. And that’s why we do it, to have a civilized New Year’s Eve.”
Eric Marchese is a contributor to Times Community News.
IF YOU GO
What: Rita Rudner: Her absolutely, positively last show of 2018
Where: Laguna Playhouse, 606 Laguna Canyon Road, Laguna Beach
When: 7 p.m. Dec. 31.
Cost: $107 to $133