"The Chosen" -- A Sensitive and Poignant Choice


BONNIE GOLDBERG

Two disparate worlds, two sets of fathers and sons, one fast and furious curveball and five blocks in Brooklyn lead a pair of teenage boys on a path of self-discovery. Playhouse on Park in West Hartford has forged a beautiful staging of Chaim Potok’s novel “The Chosen,” adapted by Aaron Posner and Chaim Potok until Sunday, February 14.

Reuven Malter, an enterprising Jordan Wolfe, meets the traditionally educated Chasidic Danny Saunders, across a baseball diamond.¬†Although they are both raised as Jews, they are legions apart in what and how they believe. Both students of the Talmud, both dedicated “yeshiva brokers,” boy scholars, they have been indoctrinated in radically different households.

Reuben’s dad, an understanding Dan Shor, only wants his son to be happy, hopefully as a college professor of mathematics while Danny’s father, the respected rabbi of a huge congregation, has planned his future, to take over the rabbinic dynasty six generations in the making.

When Danny smacks a baseball deliberately at Reuven’s head, the resulting injury becomes the unlikely catalyst that brings the two together. Reuben’s dad has been mentoring Danny with literary choices at the library, without either knowing the identity of the other. Danny soon invites Reuven to join him in studying the Torah with his patriarch, a great honor.

The “hungry minds” of both lads are being nurtured in different ways. While Reuven’s dad is open and loving, Danny’s is bound by silences, a seeming alienation of affection. A major riff between the families takes place over the prospect of a Jewish homeland, with David Maulter publicly and vocally in favor, so much so that he risks his health for the cause. Rev Sounders is equally vociferous in denying that Zionist dream.¬†Through the four years of the play, from 1944 to 1947, the older Reuven, portrayed by an eloquent David Gautschy, narrates the tale that is universal in its scope. Fathers and sons have always struggled emotionally to reach a level of love and understanding that is satisfying and liberating. Dawn Loveland directs a powerful and poignant story that is inspiring in its telling.

For tickets ($22.50-35 ), call Playhouse on Park, 244 Park Avenue, West Hartford at 860-523-5900 ex. 10 or online at www.PlayhouseOnPark.org. Performances are Wednesday and Thursday at 7:30 p.m., Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.

On Tuesday, February 9 at 7:30 p.m., the Playwrights on Park Reading series presents an original piece by Eve Lederman “Let It Come Down.” The unique relationship of therapist and patient are explored as a potent romance and was inspired by deposition transcripts from a malpractice case. Call the box office for tickets ($5).

Come discover how each boy, posed on the cusp of manhood, ultimately forges his own personal destiny.

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