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Tuesday, July 23, 2013
review of The Chosen at Barrington Stage
at Barrington Stage Company, Pittsfield, Mass.
by Bob Goepfert
Mass. - “The Chosen,” playing at Barrington Stage Company in Pittsfield, Mass.
through Aug. 3, is a play about the Jewish culture but its primary themes are
universal and timeless.
have to do with father and son relationships, friendships between opposites,
modern ideas versus traditional dogma, and the idea of discovering one’s identity
in order to live a fruitful life.
Most of all,
“The Chosen” insists that even within opposites there are common truths which
should permit men of good will to work together for a common cause. As a character quotes from the Talmud, “Both
those and those are the words of God.” He
goes on to explain that even those things that appear to contradict – can each
Chosen” those contradictions are illustrated by two religious Jewish father and
son families who live in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn in the
The Malters are
modern orthodox Jews; the Saunders Hasidic Jews. Both men are leaders who want a better world
for their followers, but disagree on the best way to obtain that goal. The sons, who become close friends, are
devoted to their fathers. They struggle
to be obedient while finding a life that satisfies their own ambitions.
in approach acerbates when World War II ends and the extent of the Holocaust is
revealed. It is heightened when each man
takes a different stance on establishing the state of Israel. The Zionist
Malter believes men must be active or their faith and culture will
disappear. Reb Saunders believes man
interfering with God’s will is heresy.
play is dense with provocative themes director Aaron Posner (who with Potok adapted
the material for the stage) keeps the human element of the story the focus of
struggles of Reuven Malter (Jeff Cuttler) and David Saunders (Adam Heller) are
touching as each young man is in conflict as they are torn between adhering to
a dogma that is in conflict with the secular world in which they exist.
(Ben Rosenbach as Malter and Richard Schiff as Saunders) are each committed to
their own truths wise and child raising. However, is loiving enough to realize
that a successful child is not a clone, rather one who honors and lives the
values they were taught.
work theatrical is the character representing Reuven Malter as an mature man
(Richard Topol). This device not only
gives us a narrator and a person to play several other characters, but the use
of this invested but distanced observer brings the play out of its time to make
it a memory play.
is a marvelously acted play performed on a suggestive set designed by Meghan
Raham that unites the character’s search for knowledge while expressing the
isolation of their existence. It is memorable theater.
plays at Barrington Stage, 30 Union Street, Pittsfield, Mass. through August 3. For schedule and ticket information