By Kenneth Jones
and Robert Simonson
20 Feb 2002
A revival of Herb Gardner's popular comedy-drama, I'm Not Rappaport, plays the last of its three regional engagements Feb. 20-March 24 at Paper Mill: The State Theatre of New Jersey, prior to Broadway.
Producers Lewis Allen and Elliott Martin are the producers of the Broadway revival of the Judd Hirsch-Ben Vereen I'm Not Rappaport, which Martin said is targeted for a Booth Theatre opening of April 25. A Paper Mill spokesperson confirmed the Broadway opening date and added that previews are to begin in New York April 13.
Elizabeth I. McCann, previously attached to the show, recently pulled away from it, owing to a full plate this season (she's producing The Smell of the Kill, The Goat and The Tony Awards).
Daniel Sullivan directs the current staging, which had a nonprofit, three venue run at Florida's Coconut Grove Playhouse, Ford's Theater in Washington, DC and Paper Mill: The State Theatre of New Jersey, before the Broadway interest emerged. Martin came on with McCann "about a month ago," he said, and Allen joined later. Martin's previous producing credits include the recent Moon for the Misbegotten (as well as the famed Jason Robards-Colleen Dewhurst version), Glengarry Glen Ross, Shadowlands, American Buffalo and more.
"I produced two of the funniest plays that have ever been done: Breaking Legs, which played at the old Promenade and my first play, Never Too Late, with Paul Ford and Maureen O'Sullivan," Martin said. "Those were both hilarious plays, but they were not touching, they were just out and out comedies. Rappaport is a terribly funny play but it is about something, it says a lot."
Lewis Allen was one of the three original producers of the original Broadway run of the Herb Gardner play, which won the Tony Award for Best Play in 1986. It also played the intimate Booth Theatre, opening June 6, 1985, starring Hirsch and Cleavon Little. Daniel Sullivan also directed. Allen's producing credits also include Annie and Master Class.
The revival played Coconut Grove Playhouse in Miami Jan. 1-20 and then played Washington, DC's Ford's Theater through Feb. 17.
Sullivan and Hirsch reunite as collaborators on the seriocomic 1985 play (originally seen in 1984 at Seattle Repertory Theatre) about two seniors who meet in Central Park in 1982 and confront a changing world — embodied by drug dealers, punks, an angry daughter and an ex-boss. Hirsch won the 1986 Tony Award for playing crusty socialist Nat. Vereen, who plays Midge, is known for his Tony Award-winning turn in Pippin, plus his recent work in Fosse on Broadway.
Talking about how Vereen came to be cast, Sullivan said, "I know Herb and I had talked about Ben several times. Herb had seen Ben do it in San Francisco. I had not. It was a separate production. And Herb had good memories of that. So we got together and read the first act. I thought that was a really good actor there.... Ben is very detailed. It's all very psychologically based. You wouldn't know at all that there is a song and dance man there. He's completely submerged into the character."
Gardner won the 1986 Best Play Tony Award for I'm Not Rappaport. Also recreating their 1985 work are designers Tony Walton (set) and Tony-winner for Rappaport Pat Collins (lighting).
Director Sullivan won the Best Director Tony Award in 2001 for Broadway's Proof.. The Rappaport cast includes Anthony Arkin (Danforth), Mimi Lieber (Clara), Steven Boyer (Gilley), Jeb Brown (Cowboy), Tanya Clarke (Laurie).
Sound designers are Duncan Robert Edwards and David F. Shapiro. Theresa Snider-Stein is costume designer.
Tickets at Paper Mill, in Millburn, NJ, range $29-$59. For Paper Mill information, call (973) 376-4343.