A Theatre Mirror Reviews - "I'm Not Rappaport"

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note: entire contents copyright 2003 by Larry Stark

"I'm Not Rappaport"

by Herb Gardner
Directed by Barbara Pettis

Set Designed by Dan Sheehan
Lighting Designed by Doug Gordon
Costumes Designed by Cathleen Mercure
Assistant Director/Stage Manager Joe Mercure

Nat..................Waldo Fielding
Midge...............Gerald Halfhide
Danforth..............Steven M. Key
Laurie..............Jordyn Acconcia
Gilley.................Reid Fleming
Clara..................Karen Fanale
The Cowboy..........Anthony Rocchio

At the center of "I'm Not Rappaport" is a convincingly congenial liar who enjoys pretense, defends right and the downtrodden with outrageous deceptions, and refuses to strike his colors even in the face of something as irrelevent as truth. The Walpole Footlighters' production of Herb Gardner's play offers the amazing spectacle of a callow young whipper-snapper of 81 (Waldo Fielding) playing this 82-year-old reprobate as though he were born to the role. He has excellent help from a cast mere fractions of his age --- mostly from Gerald Halfhide as his curmudgeonly and nay-saying straight-man Mitch. (And you must see these two playing octagenarians on pot!)

Mitch's orientation toward reality is to hide from it. He is a building maintainence-man, as invisible as possible, afraid that when his furnace is up-graded he'll be up-graded out of a job. He is grumpy at fantasies because he is committed to fact not fiction, and hates to be conned. However, Nat's real nemesis is Clara, his lawyer grand-daughter, who can't bear the risks he faces spending his days in Central park irritating people with his ex-communist's morality and impish love of fun. She threatens him with a room at her place, a retirement village, or an activities-center --- to his eyes a nursery, a jail, or a kindergarten. But as Karen Finale plays her, those threats are real.

And so are the representatives of reality. There's a tennants' committee member from Mitch's building (Steven M. Key) wanting him to retire, a girl trying to substitute art classes for heroin (Jordyn Acconcia), her money-hungry pusher (Anthony Rocchia), and the punk offering to walk these guys, safely, home --- for three bucks a day of his "protection".

And, truth to tell, in their several confrontations, reality unfortunately wins the big ones. The oldsters end up battered, bandaged, walker-dependent --- yet still, indomitably arguing about the nature and necessity of truth --- and fantasies.

Eleven years from now, I hope I can say exactly that about myself.


"I'm Not Rappaport" (8 -23 August)
5 Scout Road, EAST WALPOLE, MA

THE THEATER MIRROR, New England's LIVE Theater Guide