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Morris Bober (Bern Cohen) and his wife, Ida (Susan G. Bob), run a modest grocery store in 1940s Brooklyn. The store is an anachronism in changing times. Their daughter Helen (Rachel Claire) works full-time to help her parents but has aspirations to improve her life. Enter Frank Alpine (Drew Valins), a drifter of dubious intentions, who seeks to become Morris' assistant. In a final attempt to stay financially afloat, Morris hires Frank, renting him an upstairs room above the store. Both parents worry about the welfare of their daughter as she becomes enamored of the new employee. So begins the battle: Morris' innate goodness versus Frank's ambiguous motives.
Directed by Elfin Frederick Vogel, the cast works hard to add character dimension in this too-straightforward telling of the story. The most successful is Cohen in his convincing and detailed portrait of Morris, the good Jew—Malamud would have approved. Valins as the sinner is much more credible as the conniver than as the redeemed man of charm and good intentions. Claire's attractive Helen adds some much needed warmth to the proceedings, and there is strong support from Stewart Steinberg as Morris' friend Julius and Diedre Lynn as a lively, impecunious customer.
Presented by Turtle Shell Productions at the Times Square Arts Center, 300 W. 43rd St., NYC. May 1–16. Schedule varies. (212) 352-3101, (866) 811-4111, www.theatermania.com, or www.turtleshellproductions.com.
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