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I'm Not Rappaport
There is a plot of sorts that arcs around the threats to Nat and Midge's park bench meetings: Daughter Clara (Mimi Lieber) wants Nat to either live with her in Great Neck, move into a senior residence, or show up regularly at his neighborhood senior center (Nat's idea of "Exile to Siberia, Devil's Island and Kindergarten"); Midge is about to be dispossessed from his job and basement apartment by the head of the building's co-op committee (Anthony Arkin). There's even a subplot of sorts revolving around the dangerous elements common to Central Park during the dangerous 1980s which introduces a young hood (Steven Boyer) who hustles the two old men for protection money, and a cowboy hatted drug dealer (Jeb Brown) who threatens a young artist (Tanya Clarke) who owes him money.
Despite the serious and occasionally eloquent subtext about society's treatment of the indigent elderly, the emphasis is on the comic interplay between Hirsch and Vereen. Hirsch, who is, if anything, even better than in the original, is the first and foremost reason to see this revival. Like Murray Banks, the eccentric dropout from A Thousand Clowns (which was revived last year, also opening during the summer--Our Review), Hirsch's Nat gets the most quotable lines, and lands each one with slam-bang gusto. Vereen makes a fine sidekick. Given the overall craftsmanship of their performances it's not worth quibbling about the tendency of both actors to go a bit overboard on the senior citizen tremors of hands and lips.
Director Daniel Sullivan, now as in the 1986 production he also directed, gives the the two leads free reign to wrest every possible laugh from their grumpy old men roles. In the supporting roles Mimi Lieber plays the daughter determined to keep her father safe if not happy with a nice balance of love and exasperation, at one point grudgingly playing the straightman for her father's I'm Not Rappaport routine. Anthony Arkin is a good enough comedian to keep the co-op committee president from being too much of a sitcom chracters. But try as they might, Tanya Clarke as the innocent looking art student with a dark history and Steven Boyer and Jeb Brown as the two thugs, can't lift the subplot beyond contrivance.
Tony Walton, who designed the original Rappaport has once again outdone himself to recreate a two-level corner of Central Park, subtly lit by Pat Collins, another Rappaport veteran. Theresa Snider-Stein, a new addition to this design team, has provided just the right slightly rumpled layers of vests and jackets and hats for Nat and Midge.
Above all this is a case of watching two dynamic actors light up the stage with their perfectly timed comic interchanges. While you may enter the Booth wishing someone had put on a fresh new play geared to more cutting edge tastes, this crusty duo is more than likely to win you over by the time you leave.
6, 500 Comparative Phrases including 800 Shakespearean Metaphors by CurtainUp's editor.
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