Reviewed by Judy Richter
"The Chosen," which Chaim Potok and Aaron Posner have adapted from Potok's novel, is a play with several themes. Chief among them are the ties of friendship, the conflicts and bonds between fathers and sons, and attempts to find the truths in one's religion. All of this takes place in the Williamsburg section of Brooklyn between 1944 and 1948.
The story is told by Reuven Malter (Michael Navarra), who is now an adult and looking back on those times when he was a teenager, an Orthodox Jew who was a pretty good baseball pitcher. Young Reuven (Jonathan Bock) meets Danny Saunders (Thomas Gorrebeeck), a Hasidic Jew, at a baseball game between their respective schools. Danny comes across as pompous and cocky at first, but he and Reuven begin a friendship when they discover their mutual love of books and learning.
It's small wonder that they have a scholarly bent. Reuven's father, David (Rolf Saxon), is a college professor and Talmudic scholar. Danny's father, Reb (Corey Fischer), is a noted Hasidic leader and Talmudic scholar in his own right. Both fathers are widowers, but David is warm and loving, while Reb values silence as a child-rearing method.
Both fathers have laid out their sons' career paths, but Danny especially has other ideas. Reb has been grooming him as his sixth-generation successor and has chosen his bride, but Danny wants to become a psychologist but remain an observant Jew. Reuven was planning to become a college math professor, but he decides to become a rabbi. All of this takes place as World War II winds down, President Roosevelt dies, and the extent of the Holocaust becomes known, deeply affecting both households.
Directed by Aaron Davidman, the five-man cast excels. However, the scene where Fischer's Reb is preaching to his flock seems slow and long. Giulio Cesare Perrone's set, featuring two book-lined rooms on either side of the stage to represent the two households, is enhanced by Chad Bonaker's projections and Steven B. Mannshardt's lighting, as well as Cliff Caruthers' sound. The costumes are by B. Modern.
Even though the play is essentially about Jewish people, its themes are so universal that anyone can enjoy and appreciate it.