Sunday, August 30, 2009

Review: LSUS Black Box Theater production of I'm Not Rappaport provided laughs and an almost equal amount of discomfort

"One more word, and I'll make a citizen's arrest for crimes against the language!" So barks the character Nat, a wild-eyed octogenarian, as he confronts and bamboozles a young New Yorker in the classic urban comedy I'm Not Rappaport. Loquacious Nat and his African-American park bench-buddy, Midge, are the wise-cracking heroes of the award-winning play.

Two prestigious actors had the principal roles of Rappaport this weekend at LSUS Black Box Theater. Sy Richardson and Pruitt Tayor Vince, both veterans of movies as well as stage, provided a packed house with laugh-provoking voices, timing and bearing. Directed by Robert Alford, they were well-supported by a consistently capable group of young actors.

But there was a fly in the gumbo. Pruitt Taylor Vince, well praised in this blog over his performances in 4 LSUS productions, arrived unprepared. Almost the entire evening he scanned his script, looking for aid in his next line. It provided a deeply uncomfortable counterpoint - almost surreal - to his long-honed talent of flinging his charm over the audience and becoming a stage-dominating, bigger-than-life character.

This weekend Alford answered my email query about Vince's issue by saying, "This is something that hasn't happened before and won't happen again. We discovered, during rehearsal, that we would need more time than usual. Due to the limit's of Sy's schedule it wasn't possible to push back the dates of the performances."

It was a stumble in what has otherwise been a galloping series of successful productions produced by Alford and Mary Jarzabeck in the intimate space in Bronson Hall, LSUS.

One of Alford's strengths is in building an ensemble of young actors who bring consistent competence to the community stage. In Rappaport there were laudable performances by Audra Caitlyn Moss, Kent Jude Bernard, James Palmer, Harvard Taylor and newcomer Aubrey Brummett.

The 1996 movie version of I'm Not Rappaport starred Walter Matthau and Ossie Davis.

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