Supporting the Arts in Western Massachusetts and Beyond

February 3, 2016

The Chosen

Playhouse on Park, West Hartford CT
through February 14, 2016
by Barbara Stroup

Playhouse on Park presents a serious play about growth with “The Chosen.” It takes place in Brooklyn in the late 1940’s. The themes are many: parental love and filial devotion, emerging identity and community, and friendship and its many tests. But perhaps the theme that emerges most sharply, and which has the most immediate relevance, is stereotyping – reacting to surface appearance instead of looking beyond it. Two boys, both Jewish, overcome their own stereotypes about each other to form a lasting bond. “The Chosen” is a wordy play, but the dialog reaches the essence of this growth.

Reuven is the son of David Malter, a thoughtful, talkative liberal Jewish scholar – we see their love and mutual support. Danny is the son of Reb Saunders, a stern Hasidic leader, who has chosen near-total silence as his best approach to parenting. Can these two opposites both have positive outcomes? Can there be truth in two conflicting statements from God? And can both ways of being a Jew not only co-exist but be true to the Talmud upon which they are each based? Danny and Reuven’s friendship helps them grow away from home ties and toward independence and self-definition, even as it is tested and distorted by the emerging truths of the Holocaust and by their fathers’ conflicting positions on Zionism.

The minimal set gives a distracting prominence to the center-stage entrances and exits. The script demands a lot of the five actor cast; each of the men more than measured up. One might be permitted to wonder, however, what the girls and women were doing in these communities in mid-century Brooklyn.

Playhouse on Park opened this play to a sold-out and enthusiastic audience, some of whom exhibited their own Talmudic knowledge in their reactions. But the play appeals to anyone who can think about his or her own stereotypical thinking enough to overcome it, learn and grow.