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I’m Not Rappaport

a Comedy/Drama
by Herb Gardner

COMPANY : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Aurora Theatre [WEBSITE]
ID# 4896

SHOWING : May 05, 2016 - June 05, 2016



This 1996 Tony Award winner is the touching, humorous tale of two old men who inhabit a bench in New York’s Central Park. Nat Moyer, a feisty Jewish man, spins tall tales and doesn’t want his daughter dumping him into an old folk’s home, while half-blind, cantankerous African-American Midge Carter, hides from his disgruntled tenants.

Director David DeVries
Midge Rob Cleveland
Gilley Benjamin Davis
The Cowboy Marcus Hopkins-Turner
Clara Wendy Melkonian
Laurie Brooke Owens
Nat Kenny Raskin
Danforth Daniel Triandiflou
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I’m Not Impressed
by playgoer
Sunday, May 8, 2016
"I’m Not Rappaport" gets its title from an old vaudeville routine. That should give a clue that this is a dated play. It concerns two octogenarians and it was first produced in 1985. The math will tell you that the men would be dead by now. So is the play, pretty much.

One of the men (Nat), played by Kenny Raskin, is an unreformed socialist with a penchant for spinning self-aggrandizing tales. The other (Midge), played by Rob Cleveland, is a night super for an apartment building who spends his time at work avoiding all human contact, for fear that his significantly degraded eyesight will get him fired. Neither one is inherently likeable, but Herb Gardner’s script gives them funny lines and interactions that are supposed to make them endearing. David de Vries’ direction doesn’t succeed in making these two men appear to be real people.

The setting of the play is a park, with benches below and a bridge arching above, a rock outcropping stage left descending from the side of the bridge to the stage level. The view from the benches and bridge is supposedly a pretty view of a lake and lamp post. The view the audience gets, though, is full of litter and graffiti, with a view of two pixelated skyscrapers upstage. Isabel and Moriah Curley-Clay have provided the set (and the generally unremarkable costumes). It’s a substantial set, but with some cut-rate components, such as live saplings killed and dessicating onstage, simplified cut-outs in the bridge railings, and a foliage-woven fence upstage that serves no purpose except blocking a view of the fabric backdrop. The set is on the depressing side, just like the play.

Joseph A. Futral’s lighting design is fine, its dappled effect at the start not affecting the illumination of the actors. Bob Brooksher’s sound design is a bit of a mixed bag, using atmospheric, elegiac piano music before the first and last scenes, while inserting rock music elsewhere. Music heard in the distance in the first scene seems to have been triggered by a line in the script, with no particular attempt to have the music make sense in the context of a day in a New York park. The by-the-book quality of the production doesn’t seem to have been deeply thought out.

Five other characters help to populate the story and bring some life to it. Marcus Hopkins-Turner and Benjamin Davis play thugs of different varieties, but aren’t called on to do much more than be menacing. Brooke Owens plays an art student and supposed drug user, but comes across as a pretty generic sweet young thing. The best supporting performances come from Dan Triandiflou, as a tenants’ association member for Midge’s building, and Wendy Melkonian, as Nat’s daughter. Both make their characters come to life, and Ms. Melkonian in particular gives some emotional depth to a show that otherwise depends on facile comic situations and melodramatic confrontations.

Director David de Vries has blocked the show with a fair amount of movement, but there are large stretches with two men sitting on a park bench. Christen Orr’s fight choreography is quite good, making the moments of true violence highlights of the action. Mr. Cleveland’s phony boxing movements, however, are purely a comic convention that cheapens the texture of the piece. It doesn’t seem that the director has inspired the actors to do their best work. And that doesn’t inspire an audience to reward them with acclaim. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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