Mark Harelik's 2000 musical, based on his play first presented locally at the Mark Taper Forum in 1986, offers a warm and winning portrait of Russian-Jewish immigrant Haskell Harelik (Gary Patent), who settles in rural Texas in 1909, where his wife (Dana Shaw) bears three children. Inspired by the experiences of playwright Harelik's grandparents, the tale centers around the close but ultimately tense relationship between Haskell and the kindly gentile couple (Anthony Gruppuso as banker Milton and Cheryl David as his open-hearted wife, Ima) who take the immigrant under their wings. They help the impoverished fruit vendor build a mercantile business, but a wedge develops between Haskell and Milton over differing cultural and political beliefs. Director Howard Teichman and a skilled design team make fine use of the intimate space. Less successful are the songs of lyricist Sarah Knapp and composer Steven M. Alper, which primarily feel prolonged and superfluous. Nonetheless, the rich and affecting ethnic flavor of this piece shines through via the uplifting narrative and splendid performances. West Coast Jewish Theatre at the Pico Playhouse, 10508 W. Pico Blvd., W.L.A.; Thurs.-Sat., 8 p.m.; Sun., 3 p.m.; through July 15. (323) 860-6620,

Thursdays-Saturdays, 8 p.m.; Sundays, 3 p.m. Starts: May 26. Continues through July 15, 2012

LA Weekly