Robert De Niro is in the title, but not in the play

 

By Cynthia Citron

Cynthia Citron

HOLLYWOOD, California — Even as you giggle continuously through Sy Rosen’s delightful chronicle of his journey into “old age” you are also continually aware of how skillfully he has mounted his gentle stories.  Rosen’s play Robert De Niro Is Older Than Me is a one-man show for three people and a slide projector.

Rosen’s co-stars are Deborah Geffner, a delicious comedienne with a beautiful singing voice who also directed this play, and Robert Romanus, who plays the guitar and sings and represents the many cantankerous men who have given Rosen a hard time in life.

The projector’s role is to illustrate Rosen’s references with hilarious photos depicting the quirky people he talks about as well as the titles of the various segments of his narrative.

Under the title “Rekindle” he tells of his efforts to renew his passion for his wife, Wanda.  “We were sort of out of kindle,” he admits. Then he tells of his visit with Madame Bernaise, who advertised herself as a “psychic advicor.”

He explores “Cryogenics” as a way to prolong his existence and identifies Dick Cheney as someone who is just about “halfway through the process.”

In “Senior Discount” he researches and reviews the many airlines, restaurants, and shops that offer a discount to seniors—-and those that don’t.  He acknowledges that Norm’s restaurant does, even though the food is terrible.  “But the portions are enormous,” he adds.

He goes to his 50-year high school reunion and recalls that “in high school everybody had to look like someone else” and claims his own resemblance to Dustin Hoffman. At that reunion he also had his first and only date with a classmate named Noreen, which turned into a disaster when they were chased by two angry geese.  At this point in his story co-stars Geffner and Romanus transmogrify themselves, through their posture and movements, into ferociously honking geese that chase Rosen around the stage.

Later, when his aging mother finally moves to an assisted-living community, Rosen tries to find a stimulating friend for her and identifies himself as an “e.Harmony Anti-Alzheimer Matchmaker.”

And on it goes, with Geffner, as his mother, engaging him in screechy conversations and Romanus playing and singing the songs of the age and the aging: “Forever Young,” “When I’m 64,” “Friendship,” “Yesterday,” and the like.  With many of the songs enhanced by the sweet harmonizing of Geffner.

Even though Rosen has been a writer and producer for years, authoring television episodes for Bob Newhart, Rhoda, Taxi, MASH, Frasier, and many others, he is also adept at inserting nostalgia and a bit of pathos into his finely wrought scripts.

Romanus, who has been acting in theater, films, and television for 36 years, brings an amazing assortment of characters to life in Rosen’s play, and Geffner, an actor, writer, director, and filmmaker, brings the perfect comic flair to the proceedings.

Robert De Niro Is Older Than Me is a wonderfully enjoyable entertainment.  But as Sy Rosen ruefully repeats in the last segment of the play, “I’m not going to be around forever.”  And neither is this Fringe Festival play, which closes this Saturday, June 24th, after its 3 pm performance at the Hudson Guild Theatre, 6539 Santa Monica Blvd. in Hollywood.

Try to get there!

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Citron is a freelance writer specializing in coverage of the arts.  She may be contacted via [email protected]

 

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