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Star Bar History: I'm Not Rappaport, 2005
















Star Bar production of 'Rappaport' stresses play's humanity
The GazetteMarch 25, 2005 


The hyperactively imaginative, relentlessly scheming Nat and the retiring, goget-along Midge are among theater's great odd couples.

Intelligently directed by David Plambeck, the Star Bar Players' new production of "I'm Not Rappaport" brings out the warmth and humanity in this quirky drama disguised as a comedy.

Two men meet on a park bench, and -- against Midge's will -- take on a mugger and a drug dealer, try to save Midge's job and attempt to stop Nat's overprotective daughter from putting him in a nursing home.

This 1985 script is charming and thought-provoking. Lots of plays contrast fantasy and reality, and in some the characters choose fantasy. What makes "Rappaport" unusual is the way playwright Herb Gardner convincingly transforms the choice for fantasy into an act of courage instead of escape.

But the opening night performance didn't quite get airborne, and much of the reason lay with Bob Pinney's Nat.

Pinney is one of the region's best actors, but he's miscast in this part. One reason Nat can get people to believe his stories is his breathless delivery: Before you can quite figure out that what he's saying makes no sense, he's moved on to something else.

In contrast, Pinney is a deliberate speaker who enunciates every word precisely and parses every sentence so we know its exact meaning. His approach works against Nat's schtick. And on opening night, Pinney carried his script, which was not only jarring to watch, but limited him physically. It's something of a triumph for Pinney that he was nevertheless able to make Nat so appealing.

For Jon Smith, Midge is a breakthrough role. He's a quiet actor who doesn't waste motion or energy. As the almost blind building superintendent, his heartbreakingly honest performance is almost perfect.

The excellent supporting cast is led by Crystal Verdon's emotional Clara, Nat's daughter, and Ellen Hietala as Danforth, the yuppie tenants' association president who wants to do away with Midge's job. Brantley Scott Haines and Chad Runyan make convincing thugs, and Allyson Kelly shows talent as Laurie, an artist Nat attempts to help.

The Star Bar Players give us a worthy production of one of the best plays of the 1980s. From its delightful opening scene to its improbably believable ending, "Rappaport" is well worth seeing.