Play by Richard Schotter that premiered at the Jewish Repertory Theatre in New York City on December 29th, 1990.

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Sam Baker and Alvi Stone have been in business together for over forty years, running a sporting goods store somewhere in Manhattan. Their business has seen better days, however, and on this particular day their landlord is coming by to let them know how much he's going to raise the rent for the upcoming year. Rumor has it it could be as much as 400%, a figure that would surely put the two out of business the same way it's driven out all the other old-timers on the block.

Sam and Alvi have different ideas as to how to deal with this situation. Sam would take some money out of their retirement funds, renovate the store and try to scrape by. Alvi would pull out while he still had the shirt on his back, were not for his pride and his boneheaded belief that nothing should ever change. He's conflicted, and that conflict helps to delineate him as a character rather than his character influencing his actions.

A good portion of the play is slightly backwards like that. How the play ends really doesn't matter that much, at least as far as this synopsis is concerned. The play is a character study and a snapshot of a relationship in turmoil, nothing more. The plot is there merely to serve the characterizations rather than the other way round.

This is actually cute if you take the play's ending from a certain perspective. Over the course of the play the audience comes to know these two old fogeys with incredible detail (not that all that much perceptiveness is needed - they're last names say as much about the characters as their actions do). At the final curtain, we see that they have been making the same journey that we have, coming to truly understand each other for the first time in years. They realise that their friendship is all that really matters and that what they do is much less important. Once they understand this the play ends, further elucidating the point. Frustrating, yes, but interesting.

The play still falls flat though, and I think it's due to the subject matter. Nothing really happens here. Two elderly Jewish men snipe at each other for two hours and realise they love each other at the end. That's it. Maybe I have a short attention span, but I had a hard time seeing Sam and Alvi as anything other than stuffed animals at a child's tea party, talking about nothing and living in a poorly constructed cardboard world.

It could also be because of the character of the guys' landlord, Howie Golden. His sole purpose is to be both the cause of Sam and Alvi's problems as well as the solution to them (Golden, as in Golden Opportunity, get it?) He's slimy without being too slimy, greedy without being too greedy and obnoxious without...well, you get the picture. If Sam and Alvi are stuffed animals, this guy's a cardboard cutout, designed solely to be reacted to. He's a catalyst and a dartboard rolled into one.

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It might be an interesting play to read, but I'd take a pass on seeing it live.

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