Review: “The Chosen,” a Work of Profound Beauty at Barrington Stage Company [Berkshire on Stage]
Review by Gail M. Burns
About three-quarters of the way through the opening night performance of The Chosen, I became mesmerized by the profound beauty of what I was seeing and hearing. This adaptation of Chaim Potok’s 1967 novel by Aaron Posner, who also directs, is a marvel of theatrical perfection. The acting of the five man cast, Posner’s script and direction, the perfect set by Meghan Raham (who has also done the effective costumes), meticulously lit by Tyler Micoleau, blends into a whole so engaging that you do not want the performance to end.
Set in Williamsburg, Brooklyn between 1944 and 1948, The Chosen follows two young men from the day they meet at age 15, playing on opposite sides in a baseball game, until they are almost through college and set on their career paths at age 21. The whole is narrated by Reuven’s adult self (Richard Topol). Young Reuven Malter (Jeff Cuttler) is an Orthodox Jew, living alone with his widowed father, David (Adam Heller), who is a Talmudic scholar. Daniel “Danny” Saunders (Ben Rosenbach) is the eldest son of an Hasidic Rabbi (Richard Schiff), who is a Tzaddik, an Hasidic leader who is also a righteous and saintly person by Jewish religious standards.
Just as Roman Catholics do not view Protestants as Christians, Hasids do not view non-Hasidic Jews as true Jews, referring to them as “apikorsim,” a Yiddish word meaning unholy and unclean. When Reuven and Danny meet they are playing on opposing baseball teams – Hasids versus Orthodox Jews – and they view each other as natural enemies on and off the field. But an accident during the game changes their lives forever and brings them together as friends.