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BWW Reviews: I'M NOT RAPPAPORT Shares the Importance of Laughter and Friendship


The West Coast Jewish Theatre (WCJT) is presenting a comedy not seen in Los Angeles in many years, Herb Gardner's Tony Award-winning Best Play I'M NOT RAPPAPORT. Inspired by two elderly men Gardner met in New York City's Central Park, the play focuses on Nat Moyer, a feisty Jewish man, and Midge Carter, a cantankerous African-American man, who spend their days sitting on a park bench. They are both fighters and take pride in their battles, even though they need walkers and canes to get around. It is a play about the strength and courage both men possess and how they become connected because their need to survive is stronger than their need to give in.

Both men attempt to mask the realities of aging, sharing tall tales that Nat spins about his past as well as the present. The play touches on several issues, including society's treatment of the aging, the difficulties dealing with adult children who think they know what's best for their parents, and the dangers that lurk in urban areas. Director Howard Teichman lets the comedy shine through every situation, letting the audience enjoy the humor that allows these two men to survive the many challenges aging has caused them to face.

Midge (Carl Crudup) has been a custodian in his building for 42 years and may face the prospect of losing his job just as well as his sight. He nervously waits for his meeting with Danforth (Joe Langer) and shares his fears of the building going co-p with Nat (Jack Axlerod), an old-school leftist who manipulates people by changing identities and affiliations as casually as most people change their clothes. Or as Nat puts it, "I just make alterations until the truth makes sense."

Crudup and Axelrod have an easy chemistry that shines throughout the show, especially during the scene when Nat lights up a joint to try and get Midge to relax meeting Danforth. "What a country," declares Nat. "Two ounces per month of the best government pot for glaucoma - directly from the White House! Smoke this and even your kids become amusing." The ensuing conversation as the men get stoned had the audience in stitches as the men get reflective on all the women in their lives, including Midge's past 5 wives and Nat's lost love. But you really do have to wonder if she ever really existed anywhere other than in his mind.

Nat's daughter Clara (Maria Spassoff) shows up to offer him three choices for getting his life together and out of the park where he does nothing but get into more trouble. Spassoff effectively shows us Clara's deep frustrations in covering her Dad's lies for so many years. Of course Nat refuses to move Clara's home since "Siberia in Great Neck" is not an option for him. Their mutual rancor ebbs as each recalls their shared past and Nat spins his more fantastical stories to get his daughter to leave him alone. But oyu can tell she is not going to give up on him.

But the park is not always a safe and friendly place. There's Gilley (menacing Andy Scott Harris), a kid with a knife running a protection racket for a fee. And there's a far more dangerous character, The Cowboy (Patrick J. Rafferty), the drug connection to whom lovely young artist Laurie (Melissa Collins) is deeply in debt. When the men overhear the Cowboy plans to do her great bodily harm if she can't pay her bill, Nat and Midge attempt to intercede on Laurie's behalf, placing themselves in deadly danger for the sake of friendship. The tale Nat spins to protect Laurie is way over-the-top, and the comedy emanates from Axelrod's amazing ability to play unbelievable characters so believably. But the Cowboy sees through Nat's threat to "forget her or you will become a memory" and goes after Nat and Midge, causing both of them to re-evaluate their lives and friendship in the aftermath.

Regardless of how high the stakes get for the characters, "I'm Not Rappaport" is still a comedy, and part of its enduring appeal is the fact that it is often very funny and shares the importance of friendship in everyone's lives. And with the two seasoned and talented leads, I guarantee you will remember all the laughter and wonder their onstage magic brings to the show.

I'M NOT RAPPAPORT The Tony Award winning comedy written by Herb Gardner, directed by Howard Teichman, is presented by West Coast Jewish Theatre at the Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90064. Opens Saturday, April 27, 2013 at 8 p.m. Runs through June 23. Show times: Thurs.- Sat. at 8pm, Sun. at 3pm. ADMISSION: $35.00. Group rates available. RESERVATIONS: (323) 860-6620 ONLINE TICKETING:

Photos by Michael Lamont

Carl Crudup, Jack Axelrod

Jack Axelrod, Carl Crudup

Carl Crudup, Jack Axelrod

Jack Axelrod, Carl Crudup, Andy Scott Harris

Carl Crudup, Melissa Collins, Jack Axelrod.

Jack Axelrod, Patrick J. Rafferty

Maria Spassoff, Jack Axelrod

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