Reviewed by Amanda Callas
SkyPilot Theatre Company's West Coast Premiere ofA Black and White Cookie
is a delightful, thought-provoking play
at the lovely 905 Cole Theatre in Hollywood.
This endearing comedy by playwright Gary Morgenstein is sweet and satisfying, like its delicious deli treat namesake, with the crowd-pleasing crunch of a beloved Neil Simon classic. Surprisingly,
A Black and White Cookie
is also modern, grounded and challenging, raising urgent questions about antisemitism, class, and prejudice, while never losing its essential sweetness and generosity of spirit.
At the heart of the play are two incorrigible, crusty, lovable curmudgeons, Harold and Albie. Harold has successfully run on a newsstand in New York for 30 years. Post COVID, his rent is hiked to unsustainable levels - and now he might lose his beloved business. Harold is a 70 year old conservative Black man, a veteran Marine, a lifelong lover of New York City and baseball. His niece, played with fearless realism by Aisha Kabia, tries to help him sell his somewhat decrepit house, get a cash settlement from the newsstand landlord, and move to Florida with her. But is Harold really ready to let go of his life?
Enter Albie, a vagabond Jewish radical devoted to the proletariat and his boundless enthusiasm for lost causes, still fighting the battles of the 60s.
Maybe the only thing Albie loves as much as Fidel Castro is his cherished daily habit of reading day-old newspapers and eating ham and cheese sandwiches from Harold's newsstand.
As Albie takes up the cause of saving Harold from losing his business to the rent hike, the two enter into an unexpected friendship that challenges and inspires them both.
Tommy Franklin's performance as Harold is layered, charming, adorably irascible, wonderfully human, and completely compelling. Franklin's comic timing is absolutely impeccable, and he does hilarious, ingenious things with physical comedy, like a laugh-out-loud scene where he offers Albie coffee.
You couldn't ask for a better lead.
Actor Morry Schorr is likewise pitch perfect. His performance as Albie is a gift to the play.
Schorr has unfailing charm, great instincts for comedy and tragedy alike, and killer line delivery.There are many rich layers of comedy, vulnerability and humanity Morry Schorr unearths in the character of Albie.
With solid direction by Tudi Roche, playwright Gary Morgenstein has worked a small miracle, exploring vital issues like the insidious and dangerous blossoming of antisemitism within a sweet, offbeat comedy. Morgenstein, producer Shelby Janes, and the SkyPilot Theatre Company should be applauded for taking bold risks.
A Black and White Cookie
is the charming, meaningful, life-affirming buddy comedy you don't want to miss.
905 Cole Theatre, 905 N. Cole Ave., Hollywood, CA 90038.
Continuing thru August 20, 2023. Fri. and Sat. at 8:00 p.m., Sun. At 3:00 p.m.
Online ticketing: https://cookie.bpt.me
Estimated running time: 125 minutes.