“A Tailor Near Me” charts the making of a suit — and a friendship

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Richard Kind is standing and holding a cup of coffee and James Pickens Jr is sitting on a counter and also holding a cup of coffee
'A Tailor Near Me' Richard Kind and James Pickens Jr in A Tailor Near Me. Photos by Andrea Phox
Richard Kind standing with his left arm up and James Pickens Jr is standing on a platform.
‘A Tailor Near Me’ Richard Kind and James Pickens Jr in A Tailor Near Me. Photos by Andrea Phox

I find it getting more and more difficult not to overuse my vocabulary of praise for the New Jersey Repertory Company in Long Branch. They have maintained their mission to foster and present new plays for some 25 years now and have earned a glowing reputation both among theatre professionals and audiences alike.

NJ Rep is currently presenting their 148th World Premiere production, A Tailor Near Me, written by actor/author/playwright Michael Tucker and starring Richard Kind and James Pickens, Jr. It is a tight, economical play, but it is as jammed with emotional and conversational detail as the tailor shop in which it takes place.

The premise is simple: Sam Zurwitz (Kind) has come into a basement tailor shop owned by Alfredo Cardozo (Pickens) in lower Manhattan, looking to have his suit pants let out in preparation for an upcoming event. Alfredo notes that the patch will not be unnoticeable and that the now-ill-fitting suit will not look good on Sam.

He persuades Sam to purchase an entirely new suit, a bespoke suit that will not only wear well but will show Sam off to his best advantage. Sam finally acquiesces and, over the ensuing five weeks in spring, meets with Alfredo for measurements and fittings.

From this ordinary-sounding premise, playwright Tucker, in collaboration with director James Glossman, creates the often funny, often conflicting points of view of Sam and Alfredo. Both Kind and Pickens, veteran stage, screen, and television actors, give tour de force performances that are textbook lessons in the fine art of bringing a character to life and in showing two people slowly and not always smoothly forming a friendship — and finding out their worlds may not be as far apart as they seem on first look.

These are not star turns; instead, this is ensemble acting at its highest, a true acting partnership.

Richard Kind is huntched over talking to James Pickens Jr who is sitting in a chair holding a book looking at Richard
‘A Tailor Near Me’ Richard Kind and James Pickens Jr in A Tailor Near Me. Photos by Andrea Phox

The show is seamless. Not only in Kind and Pickens’ acting, the fine, sensitive direction, and the writing but also in the contributions of NJ Rep’s technical departments, about whom I cannot rave enough. The tailor shop, looking like a long-established family business, is as detailed as a photograph yet allows more than enough room for movement. It is created with a “how does she do it with the budget she has?” flair by scenic designer Jessica Parks, with lighting design by Jill Nagel and sound design by Nick Simone.

A Tailor Near Me — and this may sound cliche — is a play that will elicit both uproarious laughter and bring you close to tears, a play that uplifts as it entertains, a play that sends you out feeling privileged to have met Sam and Alfredo.

As I said at the beginning, my praise for the works presented by the New Jersey Repertory Company puts me in danger of running out of superlatives. This is a play that deserves to be seen in the short time it has; you will be sorry if you don’t. I cannot recommend it more strongly.

A Tailor Near Me is presented by the New Jersey Repertory Company at the Lumia Theatre in Long Branch through August 27, 2023. For more information or to order tickets, call 732-229-3166 or visit njrep.org.