The Last Schwartz

A Neil Simon play with Eugene O'Neill aspirations


Through Feb. 15

Tickets are $28-45



Marin Theatre Company, 397 Miller (at Goma), Mill Valley

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The Last Schwartz is billed as a "poignant comedy," and on the surface it sounds like a Neil Simon play -- a dope-smoking California shiksa arrives at the home of a bickering East-Coast Jewish family on the yahrzeit(anniversary) commemoration of its patriarch's death. Her freewheeling style upsets the family's equilibrium: She irritates an upright traditional sister named Norma; she gets Herb, a middle-aged brother, high; and she teases a dark secret about the dead patriarch from Bonnie, Herb's anxious wife. Playwright Deborah Zoe Laufer finds rich soil here for humor, but The Last Schwartz is really a serious drama about the end of the Schwartz family. Michael Tucker plays Herb with humor as well as gravity, and his wife (and L.A. Law partner) Jill Eikenberry plays a frail but resilient Bonnie. Sharon Lockwood and her powerful lungs hold the show together as Norma, and Megan Towle, as the airhead model from California, Kia, lands most of the hilarious lines, even if she is a walking cliché. Mark Phillips is terrific as the stuttering autistic brother Simon, but the strange interludes with Simon dreaming about outer space don't work; they amount to a forced subplot that builds, unfortunately, to a phony ending. Too bad. It's a Neil Simon play with Eugene O'Neill aspirations.

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