Sunday, March 06, 2005

Play: These and Those

The Chosen Adapted by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok from the novel by Chaim Potok, Directed by Aaron Posner, Seattle Rep, 5 Feb - 20 March

The Box and its younger sibling are both now here, and, having disgourged their contents onto my downstairs table, demand attention. Yet despite those demands, Kate and I got out Saturday afternoon to a wonderful performance of The Chosen.

The original piece has mileage on it - It was a good book in the 60's and and good movie in the 80's, and the theatrical version showed up in 1999 (At Pittsburgh's City Theatre, no less). It is the story of two Jewish boys who meet as opponents in a heated baseball game and become deep friends. Reuven (Connor J. Toms)) is Orthodox, 20th Century, and Americanized. Danny (Gabriel Baron) is Hassidic, Talmudic and Old World. It's Brooklyn. It's the End of WWII. It's generational change. Reuven's world is warm, cluttered, modern, and chaotic. Danny's world is colder, organzied, and pre-ordained. Reuven has an easy relationship with his academic father David (Larry Paulsen), while Danny and his rabbi father Reb Saunders (Eddie Levi Lee) do not speak, unless to discuss the Talmud. Each youngster is changed by the other, and both simultaneously disappoint and delight their fathers.

The play is compact and fits perfectly into the Leo K theatre. The backstage is divided into the fathers' studies - Reuven's study a cluttered, vibrant mess, Danny's a stately, imposing temple. Forestage takes up the rest of the actions - baseball field, hospital room, class hallways, with a minimum of set design. The cast is similarly compact at five - The two boys (wonderfully acted), the two fathers, and the elder Reuven (Aaron Serotsky), who glides beautifully between narator and bit player through the action. The cast is comfortable, and it no doubt helps that the director was also an adaptor of the original work.

This is a "Jewish play" in that it is rich Judaic history and lore, from Gematra to the Holocaust, but its also a "guy's play", which means its about communication and affection and how difficult it is to break through and how worthwhile it is once you do so. It has laughter, tears, pain, redemption, and fires off naturally and effectively. The narated framework works in that it doesn't distance the audience from the young men, but instead provides a link for them into a now-distant time and place.

If you get a chance, go see this one. It's been extended a week in its run.

More later, for the Box awaits.