Altman's Last Stand Review - Not to Yield

When a multi-million dollar corporate Goliath plans on closing Franz Altman’s cluttered little antique shop to make way for a huge project, they don’t count on the crafty Altman. He’ll have none of it. Thus begins the tug of war between the giant developer and the little man. His response to the corporate director? “I am rich like he will never know...I have my health, my shop, and my integrity.” As it turns out, this conflict has huge public appeal. Soon Altman is a media celebrity making guest appearances on TV. He is now on a first-name basis with some of the greats of the television world and often chats with his pal Morley of “60 Minutes.” When the play opens, Altman is being interviewed for an article to be featured in People magazine.

 

Michael Laskin as Franz Altman - Photo by Ellen Giamportone

As he weaves his personal odyssey into a captivating and inspiring story, we soon learn that he was born into a wealthy and cultured Jewish Viennese family; in fact, they encouraged the seven-year-old Altman to become Freud’s client for a time. As he matures and tensions rise in Europe, Altman finds himself an unwilling participant in the Holocaust. His experiences encompass the birth of Israel, a journey to Buenos Aires, and eventually his moves to Chicago, a senior citizen home, and a satisfying life in New York City. Altman’s story winds through quirky, amusing, poignant, and painful moments as the charmingly eccentric man recounts his life and loves through the ripe old age of 90. And let’s not forget his current love affair with life...and the widow who originally owned his shop. 

 

Michael Laskin - Photo by Ellen Giamportone

Playwright Charles Dennis has skillfully fleshed out this character Altman, “carbuncles” (how Altman mistakenly addresses the People interviewer) and all. These nuances masterfully turn Altman into a living, compelling human being and make for a very engaging play. He’s an individual who sees all sides of an argument - but will always live by his mother’s last words: “To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.” Award-winning director Charles Haid manages to add a layer of humor and pathos to Altman while pulling that extra mile from talented actor Michael Laskin, whose brilliant solo performance covers every base and then some. Laskin becomes Franz Altman, in the very real sense of the word.

 

Michael Lastin - Photo by Ellen Giamportone

Congratulations are in order to the entire production team for lighting (Toranj Noroozi), sound (Corwin Evans), and costume design (Jeffrey Kurland). The staging (Yee Eun Nam) is just about perfect with intriguing video projections on the back wall to etch memories for the audience through Altman’s eyes.

 

Hector Elizondo, Charles Dennis, Michael Laskin, Charles Haid at the After-Party - Photo by Jay Beal

ALTMAN’S LAST STAND runs through March 13, 2016, with performances at 8 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays and at 3 p.m. on Sundays. The Zephyr Theatre is located at 7456 Melrose Avenue, Los Angeles, CA 90046. Tickets are $25. For reservations, call 323-960-4412 or go online at www.plays411.com/altman.

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