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A CurtainUp Review
The creators may call it a musical, But Old Stock is really a play in which music, performed by Caplan, the narrator (a.k.a The Wanderer), weaves in and out of the story. At the same time, two of the musicians— Chris Weatherstone on woodwinds, and Mary Faye Coady on violin— also perform the roles of the refugee couple, Chaim and Chaya.
Weatherstone and Coady are just Jewish enough to be believable. Happily they do not move into the swarmy stereotypes that overwhelm us with fabricated emotion.
Caplan, with his unruly beard and grin of an evil clown, could have stepped directly out of a Brecht-Weill musical or a Berlin cabaret. In fact, Adamson's highly evocative set is a huge shipping container that opens up into one of those louche cabarets the Nazis worked so hard to destroy.
The band is completed by Graham Scott on keyboard and accordion, and Jamie Kronick on percussion. The songs often, but not always, are in the klezmer tradition. Sometimes they're more like American hillbilly music.
El Malei Rachamim (which Caplan sings with an emotional intensity that can be almost difficult to endure) is a Hebrew prayer for the souls of people who have died. Frequently, the songs are not exactly about what's happening in the play. They comment on Jewish tradition, offer a philosophy of life or are purely satirical.
Chaim and Chaya's love story does not start out on an amorous note. Chaya is a widow whose husband died on the road to Russia. She behaves as if marriage is more of a duty than a choice. While Chaya arrives in Halifax with her entire family, Chaim is all alone in the world, having lost his family in a pogrom. He is genuinely taken with Chaya and longs to please her.
But life goes on. They have children. Chaim works hard. Romania recedes into the far reaches of their memories. They are Canadians. Their children thrive. Ben tells us that Chaya dies in 1955, in Montreal, of heart failure at the age of 77. Chaim lives until 1975 and dies at the age of 92. They have eight grandchildren and sixteen great-grandchildren. Last year, their fourteenth great-great-grandchild was born, a boy named Elijah... one would like to think after the prophet.
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Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story
Created by Hannah Moscovitch, Ben Caplan, and Christian Barry; written by Hannah Moscovitch; and directed by Christian Barr
Ben Caplan (The Wanderer); Chris Weatherstone ((Chaim); Mary Faye Coady (Chaya)
Costume Design: Carly Beamish
Set and Lighting Design: Louisa Adamson & Christian Barry
Stage and Production Manager: Louisa Adamson
Running Time 1 hour and 20 minutes
59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59 Street between Park and Madison
From 3/08/18; opening 3/18/18; closing 4/22/18
Tuesday to Friday at 7 PM; Saturday at 2 PM & 7 PM; and Sunday at 2 PM
Tickets: $25 - $70 ($25 - $49 for 59E59 Members) 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org
Reviewed by Paulanne Simmons March 28, 2018
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