1970 Oscar nominee Karen Black and David Proval of TV’s The Sopranos play longtime marrieds in Moses Supposes, Ellen Malaver’s entertaining family comedy—no, make that entertaining dysfunctional family comedy, now playing at the Zephyr Theatre.

Cookie and Marvin Green’s adult children Ray (Elijah Kranski) and Cece (Sarah Sankowich) have come back down south from New York and Boston for their folks’ 35th Wedding Anniversary party, and at lights up Cece is attempting to clean out Mom’s freezer to make room for hors d’oeuvres for 150. A foil-wrapped package labeled August 12, 1998 and a plastic bag of “resectioned colon” are clues that we’re in for some macdap Meet The Parents-style madness.

Marvin’s arrival, fishing pole and one small dead fish in hand, and his complaint that Cookie’s latest project is a part-time job as “the only Ashekenazi Pilgrim in the whole damn world” provide further evidence of the clan’s kookiness, as does a phone call for “Moses” from Marvin’s friend Dinky, whom Marvin can only get to hang up by saying the magic words, “Let my people go.”

Cookie arrives, justifiably upset at the words Marvin has used to describe her new “career.” “I am a tour guide in a horse drawn carriage,” she informs her children with pride, unaware that a trio of announcements will soon rock her world.

Announcement number one: Marvin has no intention of attending the anniversary party.

Announcement number two: Ray and his “friend” Harry have decided to have a baby, and they want Cookie, Marvin, and Cece to help them decide on a surrogate.

Announcement number three: Cece has dropped out of her residency program, news unlikely to sit well with Jewish parents who’ve doubtless been extolling their MD daughter since she first started medical school.

These three announcements pale, however, next to the news that Ray has mistakenly sent out invitations to Marvin’s “C List,” who just happen to be the 150 people his parents most hate in the entire universe.

Can this 35-year marriage possibly survive until tomorrow’s anniversary party?

These questions and more are answered in Moses Supposes, directed with snap, crackle and pop by Lee Sankowich and performed with considerable flair by its quartet of stars.

Black’s idiosyncratic persona has become her trademark over the past four decades, and as Cookie she redefines kooky in a performance you simply can’t take your eyes off of. Proval, in a 180 degree turn from his Jersey Guy gangster roles, takes his quirky cues from Black, the pair playing opposite each other to often hilarious effect—and quite touchingly in the play’s final scenes.

Kranski and Sarah (daughter of Lee) Sankowich savvily play it a good deal straighter and subtler than the older generation, and both are excellent—with the added bonus that the good-looking pair could easily be real life siblings.

Moses Supposes looks great. Adam Haas Hunter’s carefully detailed living room/kitchen set has just the right lived-in look, and Matt Richter lights it with attention to time of day and mood. Norman Kern’s sound design features just-right effects and a nice selection of Sinatra and Sinatra-esque tunes, including a particularly well-chosen “Love And Marriage.” Joanna Leskow’s costumes for Marvin, Ray, and Cece are terrific looking and a perfect personality fit for each. Erica Howard, “wardrobe stylist for Karen Black,” has made choices to match Cookie’s tastes, though her designs don’t particularly flatter the film/TV/stage vet.

Wilfred Biggs is master carpenter, Elizabeth Hernandez production stage manager and prop master, and Rebecca A. Eisenberg assistant stage manager/prop master.

Moses Supposes may not be the Next Great Comedy, but as a showcase for two unique star performers and two up-and-coming young talents, it is worth checking out, if only for a chance to see Black and Proval still going strong after all these years.

The Zephyr Theatre, 7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles.

–Steven Stanley
October 30, 2011
Photos: Michael Lamont

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