We are flies on the wall in this one-man play about an elderly Jewish businessman who, having survived the best and the worst, is faced with an ultimate challenge. Although Charles Dennis’ script leans rather heavily on exposition, the brilliant acting by Michael Laskin soon compensates for any lack of dramatic tension. Set in New York City in the 1990’s, Altman is fighting to save his last refuge – his second-hand shop – from being taken from him. Although fictional, Franz Altman is based on any number of vulnerable men who had to fight for their lives against the crushing powers labeled progress.
The conceit is an interview with an invisible lady reporter but Laskin is quite capable of carrying the action without that prop. Having become a media celebrity through a 60 Minute segment, Altman is galvanized into action. This is a man who has survived tragedies, least of all imprisonment in Auschwitz, and if you think a greedy landlord and his attorney will rout him never fear. This may be Altman’s last stand but how he fights that battle is both amusing and plausible.
Director Charles Haid keeps the action moving with knocks on doors and phones ringing so the sense of reality never lets up. Impressive seedy NYC office set and nostalgic projections are by Yee Eun Nam; sound is by Corwin Evans, lighting by Toranj Noroozi, while Laskin’s evocative 1990’s costume is by Jeffrey Kurland.
At Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Ave, West Hollywood. Tickets: (323) 960-4412 or online at www.plays411.com/altman
Photos by Ellen Giamportone