By Kenneth Jones
08 Sep 2002
Herb Gardner's I'm Not Rappaport starring Judd Hirsch and Ben Vereen has struggled to expand its audience in the days leading up to the historically lean weeks of September, but will finally give up the ghost Sept. 8, after nearly a month of week-to-week extensions.
It will have played a total of 53 performances and 15 previews at the Booth Theatre. The tiny Booth is expected to house a revival of Our Town, starring Paul Newman in early 2003.
The Broadway play—about two old men and their confrontations with each other and the outsiders in their lives, set in Central Park—ran under a "provisional closing notice" for a few weeks in August and producers hoped that an infusion of cash and support from marketing would keep the show running well into the fall. Hirsch reportedly put his own dough into the show.
"The thing that keeps me going and keeps this show alive is to see this audience at the end of the show after any given performance," co-producer Roy Miller previously told Playbill On-Line. "We have never not gotten a standing ovation. They are screaming for these guys like, as Ben says, they are rock stars with guitars."
Given that New York has been preoccupied with the idea of "survival" over the past year, the play — about respecting the history of older people, who are survivors with much to offer — feels remarkably timely. "It's such a New York show at an appropriate time," Miller said.
Hirsch returns to his Tony Award-winning role as liberal and cranky Nat and Ben Vereen plays his foil, Midge, an aged building super who is getting the boot from his co-op board. The play won the 1986 Tony Award for Best Play. Rappaport ticket sales had slowly increased in recent weeks, but not enough to keep the show going. The underdog work overcame an unenthusiastic New York Times review in 1985 to win the Best Play Tony Award in 1986.
Re-creating their 1985-86 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) and Tanya Clarke (Laurie), with David S. Howard, Adam Wade, Nurit Loppel, Michael Pemberton and Robert McClure standing by.
Sound designers are Duncan Robert Edwards and David F. Shapiro. Theresa Snider-Stein is costume designer.
Cleavon Little was Hirsch's original co-star; Little died in 1992. Water Matthau and Ossie Davis starred in the 1996 film version, directed by Gardner.
Producers Elliott Martin and Lewis Allen brought the play to Broadway following not-for-profit co-production engagements in three cities. Their partners in the Broadway venture are Ronald Shapiro, Bud Yorkin, James Cushing, Roy Miller, Mari Nakachi, Tommy DeMaio and Zandu Productions.
The Booth Theatre is at 222 W. 45th Street. For ticket information, call (212) 239-6200.