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Paulanne Simmons

Charles Grodin Explores What's Wrong with The Right Kind of People

Ed Owens, Evan Thompson, Doris Belack and Robert Stanton make up a fiesty coop board in "The Right Kind of People" by Charles Grodin. Photo by James Leynse.

"The Right Kind of People"
Directed by Chris Smith
Primary Stages
59E59 Theater
59 East 59th St. between Park and Madison avenues
Opened Feb. 9, 2006
Tues. 7 p.m., Wed thru Fri 8 p.m., Sat. 2, 8 p.m. Sun. 3 p.m.
$60 (212) 279-4200 or www.ticketcentral.com
Closes March 5, 2006
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons Feb. 4, 2006

"The Right Kind of People," Charles Grodin's new play, now in its New York premiere at Primary Stages, is the kind of comedy that plays best in big cities, most specifically, New York. The action, which revolves around the shenanigans of a Fifth Avenue co-op board, certainly rings true to anyone who has ever had to deal with this particular breed of people. Suburban home-owners, however, may be left cold.

Directed by Chris Smith, The Right Kind of People moves briskly from scene to scene, all of which take place in one of the apartments in this exclusive building. The characters are a typical mix of upper-class, white Americans. There are enough older white males in suits to fill a miniature U.S. Congress.

The plot, or what there is of it, involves the young producer, Tom Rashman (Robert Stanton) and his Uncle Frank (Edwin C. Owens) who has raised him, helped him financially, and most recently, been instrumental in Tom's getting an apartment in the building. But when Frank has Tom fill a vacancy on the board, the trouble begins.

Tom is outraged by the racism, insensitivity and snobbery of the board members, who vote to exclude children, dogs, Jews and divorced women from the building, and employees (especially black) from the main elevator. He befriends the board's only Jew and liberal, Doug Bernstein (Mitchell Greenberg). Eventually Frank comes to believe his nephew has turned against him.

Although a good deal of The Right Kind of People is quick and witty, much of the dialogue is preachy in the most obvious way. One almost feels sorry for Greenberg, a good actor, who has to spout such soapbox fare.

Keith Jochim and Doris Belack provide one of the better (although predictable) moments as Mr. and Mrs. Goldberg, an orthodox Jewish couple who want to buy into the co-op. They are kind, open, down-to-earth and Jewish in a way that will always confine them to the outer boroughs, in other words totally unacceptable to the board. But for the most part, the play has a flat, banal quality that cannot be lifted by an occasionally witty line.

Even more serious, the comedy concludes on a decidedly unfunny note that is neither appropriate to this kind of play nor justified by the plot.

The Right Kind of People might make an amusing short story, but there just isn't enough here for a full-length play.

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