Nat and Midge deliver a clinic on comedic timing and endearing irascibility in Herb Gardner’s deliciously entertaining play, “I’m Not Rappaport” The play won the Tony for best play in 1985 and a Tony for Judd Hirsch as best actor for his role of the aging Jewish socialist Nat. “Rappaport” played Broadway’s Booth Theater from November 1985 to January 1988 (891 performances) with Hirsch playing opposite Cleavon Little, and later Ossie Davis, as the cantankerous Black friend and begrudging foil. Nat is a gruff and combative oldster so bored with his nondescript life that he decides to make certain “alterations” to his identity, posing as an attorney, a mobster and other personae that help him voice liberal causes. “The proper response to the outrageous is to be outraged,” he storms from his park bench. There is magic in the spontaneity of the disguises and the clever repartee that accompanies them. Granted, Nat’s Socialist leanings are less than convincing in the 21st century, but you could say he’s become an even more lovable iconoclast. After all, anyone still clinging to those convictions truly deserves a prime Central Park bench. Perhaps his seat mate, Midge, puts it best: “You always know what side to fight on because you fight old wars.”
Or as Nat responds to being told by a much younger man that ‘You’re old, got to be 80 easy’, he thunders: “There’s nothing easy about being 80”!
Midge slips comfortably into the role of the apartment house super hiding out from his tenants, delivering just the right touch of anger, defiance, skepticism and vulnerability as the unfortunate character who reluctantly allows himself to be duped by his friend just once more.
The tranquil park setting, carousel music in the distance, is punctuated by Hirsch’s fiery temper storms and altercations with unwanted visitors. It’s a lasting portrait of a man who rises and falls by the gift of gab. Most importantly for today’s audiences, “Rappaport” continues to entertain with its timeless insights into the aging process. “Old people, they know something,” Nat explains to the youngsters. “They didn’t just stay late to ruin your party.”
Rappaport will be presented at the Sawtooth Botanical Garden as a fund-raising benefit for the Garden, The Senior Connection and NAMI. Admission is free but a suggested donation of $15 per person is encouraged. The Pavilion/Theater Park area will open at 6:00 P.M.
Guests are encouraged to bring low camp chairs; higher chairs will be allowed in the rear. Eating, drinking, and picnicking are allowed.
With George Lima, Lynn Mason, Sean Sheehan, Dawson Howard, Jessie Timmons, Gary Hoffman, and Cam Cooper as “The Cowboy”.