Justin Stone in Who’s the Boss? The Tony Danza Experience
Justin Stone @ E for Ethel
8:45pm, Sun 15 Feb 2015
Shameful admission time: in my early teens, I had a soft-spot for Who’s the Boss?, and it wasn’t entirely because of the young Alyssa Milano. Even as a younger entertainment consumer, I was definitely aware that it was a cheesy, contrived, inappropriately laugh-tracked show… but still I loved it. The contrived plot-lines, the awful child-“acting” of Danny Pintauro, the wooden adult-acting of Judith Light, and the blissful ignorance of Tony Danza were so-bad-it’s-good elements of transience.
So – even though I had no idea who Justin Stone was – on the strength of the title of this show alone, I was there.
Justin Stone awkwardly took to the stage with all the elegance of a first-time rehearsal in the small space, performing a dance to the opening music of Who’s the Boss?… but the word “awkwardly” completely undersells the hesitant, self-obsessed performance (I initially thought it was a reproduction of Tony Danza’s moves from the opening credits, but painful research proved otherwise). The music finished, he looked at the assembled crowd… and then the music started afresh, leading to a repeat performance of the dance.
And that kicked me into Ludicrous-Land… which made me grin manically, and set me in good stead for the rest of the show.
The Tony Danza Experience is a wild, albeit oddball, ride: anchored with an odd letter to Danza, Stone loosely attaches other bizarre snatches of humour… his karate demonstration was hilarious, if only for the potential danger involved (to both audience and performer). There’s a constant undercurrent of pitiful sadness, though, which Stone injects through throwaway comments to his still-at-home unemployed life, his widowed Mum (“Dad left us,” Stone mentions, before outwardly trying not to think of his father’s exploding head), and references to grim sexual release. The latter threads also contain oblique references to his mother: “We don’t like the same porn,” Stone laments, before a curiously descriptive “Who knew a breast could go that colour when constricted?”
Throughout, Stone’s stage presence remains incredibly awkward; even the ending – where he leads us out onto Melbourne Street, then yells at us (to the raised eyebrows of passers-by), before running off in the direction of Zambracca’s – seems to be intent on maximising the discomfort to both himself and the audience…
…but I loved it. The Tony Danza Experience is a wonderful demonstration of what the Fringe can foster: a focussed, bloody-minded, and completely mental event that couldn’t really exist anywhere else. Justin Stone created an experience that had no real peers, that was unique in its bizarreness… and it still makes me grin to think about it today.
— Pete Muller (@festivalfreakAU) February 15, 2015