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Sandy Spring Theatre Group/Rockville Little Theatre I’m Not Rappaport

By • Mar 5th, 2011 • Category: Reviews
I’m Not Rappaport
Sandy Spring Theatre Group and Rockville Little Theatre
Randolph Road Theatre, Silver Spring, MD
Through March 13th
2:45 with one intermission
$15/$10 Seniors
Reviewed March 2nd, 2011

Are you relevant? What do people see when they look at you? When you’re in your 80’s, will it be the same? I’m Not Rappaport, a joint production (pun intended) of Sandy Spring Theatre Group and Rockville Little Theatre running through March 13th at the Randolph Road Theatre, attempts to answer some of those questions. The only time we were able to make it out to a production was this week’s pickup rehearsal. We did so and other than some minor technical and line issues, the audience of three watched a well done run of the show.

I’m Not Rappaport follows the real and imagined adventures of Nat and Midge, a pair of octogenarians passing time together in Central Park. Nat (Bill Spitz) spun his yarns generally to the consternation of Midge (Wayne Henson). Through his words and expressions, Spitz could draw you in and make you believe he was once the president of the United States, as long as you didn’t think about things rationally. He was the younger of the friends (Midge being 82) and had a bit more bounce in his step. Despite an injury received at the hands of another downtrodden New Yorker, Spitz was unfazed and unwilling to let life stop him. His tall tales always seemed to catch up with him and often led to bigger and more dangerous problems, yet his arrogant out look that life is his for the taking, he does so with gusto.

As counterpoint to Nat’s relish, Midge was happy to let life happen, as long as it doesn’t happen to him. Like Nat, Midge accepted old age more gracefully, held on to a dream of needing to be needed and feeling useful. He found that in an unlikely and annoying friendship with Nat. Even though he complained during most of his misadventures with Nat, Midge felt like he was needed, if for nothing else to keep Nat from getting killed. Henson showed us an opposite approach to life than Nat, both from physical movement to expressions. Midge’s greatest impediment was his vision and there were times when he seemed to be looking into space because he could not find anything to focus on. His pace, especially when he was angry, kept the show moving.

Nat’s daughter Carla opened the second act. Played by Mara Bayewitz there was definite tension between the two. It was clear that Bayewitz cared about her father, but often grew frustrated with his wanderings and stories. In the second act one of his stories almost had her convinced until the light bulb went on and she realized it was another one of Nat’s tall tales. Watching him go on while she gritted her teeth and glared was priceless.

The rest of the cast was convincing and believable as they interacted with Nat and Midge. As the Association president Danforth (David Gross), his outlook towards Nat and Midge was pity as he tried to do what he thought was a kind gesture, but turned into disaster, again for poor Midge who just wanted to be needed. The bully Gilley (Thomas Copas) was cold and uncaring, treating the elder gentlemen with threats and violence. The Cowboy (Skylar Sanders) was a total unknown, was he to be a comic character or another victimizer? Sanders gave his character several layers to move through, making for a very interesting sequence of scenes. Sweet, innocent Laurie (Rachel Schlaff) liked the two older gentlemen and wanted to be friendly.

The set for I’m Not Rappaport was well done with two benches and a bridge leading back to the rest of the park. Set Designer/Master Carpenter Dave Kaysen used the levels effectively to show heights and distance. Being a pickup rehearsal, sounds and lights were difficult to judge as the normal operators weren’t present. Sandy Eggleston’s costumes were passable, mostly succeeding to feel like the early 1980’s.

The show did run long, over two and a half hours, which at times felt really uninspiring. But the complete work was riveting as Nat and Midge’s relationship grew together. This was a thought provoking show about growing old that, no matter how hard you try, no one will be able to avoid.

Director’s Notes

Have you ever given a well-read copy of a favorite book to a friend, and secretly envied them because they were about to experience it for the first time?

If so, then you know why am I just a bit jealous of you right now. You’re about to discover what happens when you give seven incredibly talented actors a Tony Award-winning script and six weeks to rehearse.

There’s a popular bumper sticker that says “Growing Old Ain’t For Sissies” and in I’m Not Rappaport Herb Gardner takes that thought to its logical conclusion, with some wonderfully poignant stops along the way. Growing old isn’t always fun and games, but Nat and Midge remind us that it’s still the best idea anyone’s come up with so far. While I’m not ready to admit that I’m looking forward to old age, I can say I’m hoping to display the same quiet dignity and grace that Midge brings to it, with a healthy dollop of Nat’s joie de vivre thrown in to keep things interesting. I’d like to think that Nat is much like my own grandfather often was, when given the slightest encouragement- you never knew if one of his stories was the truth, an “alteration” or an outright tall tale. Watching these two old codgers has often felt like being at a family reunion; don’t be surprised if you see a branch or two of your own family tree in the story, too. I didn’t start out with this in mind, but somewhere along the way, I’ve grown to know and love Nat and Midge. I’m Not Rappaport became a belated valentine to all “seasoned citizens” in my life – those wonderful old folks (past and present) who remind us all that growing old is mandatory, but growing up is optional.

This show also marks my return to the director’s chair after an absence of nearly a decade, and I would be greatly remiss if I didn’t thank Sandy Spring Theatre Company and Rockville Little Theatre for this incredibly rewarding opportunity. Added to that are my sincerest thanks and deepest admiration for the amazing cast, producers and crew who made this little journey a joy beyond measure. Mara Bayewitz deserves special recognition for being the best Assistant Director, confidante, den mother, co-conspirator and organizer on the planet.

And finally, thank you for coming to see our show. Your support makes it possible for these two great theatre companies to continue bringing quality entertainment to our community, and we’re extremely pleased to be able to share this production with you. If you enjoy the performance, please do more than applaud at the end – share the magic of live theatre with your family and friends by telling them to come see I’m Not Rappaport before the run ends.

And now, sit back, and enjoy I’m Not Rappaport. Two hours from now you’ll be jealous of me – when you realize that for the last six weeks I’ve had the great pleasure of watching and guiding these amazing actors as they worked to bring this wonderful play to life.

-Ken Kemp

Photo Gallery

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Photos provided by Ken Kemp.

Cast

  • Nat: Bill Spitz
  • Midge: Wayne Henson
  • Clara: Mara Bayewitz
  • Danforth: David Gross
  • Gilley: Thomas Copas
  • Cowboy: Skylar Sanders
  • Laurie: Rachel Schlaff

Crew

  • Director: Ken Kemp
  • Assistant Director: Mara Bayewitz
  • Producers: Trish Weiler & Toby Pisarra
  • Lights: Joe Conner
  • Sound: Dave Eikens and Bob Schwartz
  • Props Mistress: Andrea Kibbe
  • Costumes: Sandy Eggleston
  • Volunteer Coordinator: Anne Cary
  • Set Design/Master Carpenter: Dave Kaysen
  • Set Crew: Artur Agaronyan, Kevin Gross, Marty Speiser

Disclaimer: Sandy Spring Theatre Group/Rockville Little Theatre provided two complimentary media tickets to ShowBizRadio for this review.

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started ShowBizRadio in August 2005 because they love live theater. They each have both performed in and worked behind the scenes in DC area productions, as well as earned a Career Studies Certificate in Theater from Northern Virginia Community College. Mike & Laura are each members of the American Theatre Critics Association, and Mike is a member of the Online News Association.

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