THE CHOSEN plays to Audiences Young and Old

We’re really pleased to playing to multiple generations of audience members with THE CHOSEN. It’s such a unique story, the unfolding development of both the Malter and Saunders families. The production has been dedicated to one particular group of students, the class of 2012 from Capital City Public Charter School, and they’ve overwhelmed us with their written responses to the play — their gratitude at being able to speak with the actors after the performance — their appreciation of absorbing both the book and then its adaptation and then to be brought behind the scenes to experience the actors’ process of becoming their characters. It’s been a transformative project for so many of us.

We’ll begin posting some of those wonderful letters (including a very moving note from CCPCS teacher Jill Weiler) and we’ll be reading comments from older students struck by the play and its performance. More to come. Add your own response as well.

24 thoughts on “THE CHOSEN plays to Audiences Young and Old

  1. To me, the most compelling aspect of the chosen was the iteration, “both these words and those are the words of god” (misquoted). For me, the derived message centers on the disagreement between the highly mystical/ dogmatic Hassidic tradition and the more secularized Zionist sect. I don’t fully understand how the Talmud, where disagreement appears in the very text, informs either side of that disagreement. For instance, are the different interpretations and arguments within the Talmud consistently written by a certain type of author?
    I though the instant hatred between Danny and Reuven was actually driven more by their similarity as individuals than by their pronounced religious differences. That is, I observed their connection, rather deep and rooted in their recognition of each other’s prominence, verged more on brotherhood. The brilliant young men found mutual resonance in their deep intellectual pursuits and studies, although the particular windows through which they viewed the world where different.
    I agree with Marsheda comment to Aaron Davidman in post-show discussion. I feel Reb Saunders was well aware of the effect his parenting philosophy would have on the son. In appreciation to “the master of the universe”, he wanted to supplement his sons mind with a capacity for empathy. Leading an entire people requires more than intellect. Seeing Danny’s behavior throughout the play, and his engagements with the other characters, it seems to me that he did become more in touch with his emotions. For a person with that type of intellect, the mind is often a more stimulating place” to be”. It was interesting to see the complaints of the more westernized audience, criticizing Saunders for “being cruel” to his son. These complaints were sort of prescriptive, and didn’t show much regard for the religious values behind the treatment.

  2. Someone once told me that hatred is just as strong as love and I think that this statement fits suitably to describe Danny and Reuven’s relationship. The passion that they had in the baseball field as rivals set the tone for the rest of their friendship throughout this story. I thought it was beautiful that Reuven became the line of communication between Danny and his father. Interestingly, it turns out they were a reflection of each other and they discovered who they were through the others different morals and values and in the end their roles reversed. Even in the staging, this mirror effect was present in the scene where they both confronted their fathers after Danny’s father forbid that he spends time with Reuven.

    I do not mean to beat a dead horse, and we all heard the audiences fixation with this idea of silence in the post-discussion, and some said that this silence was “cruelty” and that they could not understand the motivation behind Danny’s father and his silence. Yet it was hinted throughout the play the symbolism behind silences, and I quote, “words are by nature and silence are by wisdom”. Reb Saunders had a well laid out plan in raising his son through this silence. The way I see it is that silence allows us a moment to reflect and to sit with the pain to develop empathy and this is something that Westerners lack. No offense to anyone, but I agree with Michael that it was interpreted in a more Westernized view and I think this lies in the fact that Westerners strongly hold to the first amendment for freedom of everything. Thus, audiences can perceive the silence as emotional abuse.

    The fact of the matter was that Rab Saunders tried to instill their traditions to Danny, but he was more fascinated with Freud and psychology which is very much an American philosophy, point-of-view or what have you. Even through Danny’s attempt to preserve his tradition very obviously shown through the way he dressed, his mind could not grasp the tradition and yet here was Reuven who dressed in a Western way but understood the old tradition in his mind. Here was yet again, the theme of cultural clash.

    This play personally made a huge impact on me, because I have not spoken to my father in four years and I cannot say that my father’s intention is the same as Rab Sanders to teach me to understand pain. Yet in an ironic way, unknowingly, it has shaped my character and not at all to brag, but I do have a knack for understanding people’s pain and I have the ability to empathize with whatever situation anyone is going through. Yet I cannot understand my own father’s pain. I do not want to make this too emotional, but it happens. I am an immigrant and its tough to live at a cross roads to balance a Western and Eastern lifestyle. I am still figuring that out and I thank this production for opening up my eyes and allowing myself to get in touch with my personal life.

  3. I must say that I appreciated my encounter with the stage version of “The Chosen” more than I did my encounter with the book in my high school English class. This was partially due to my teacher’s ability to find the preservation of innocence in almost any literary work. I also believe that the work took on a new form since I am more informed about the history of controversy surrounding Israel, and the characters were brought to life beyond the two-dimensional pages of a book.

    During the post show talk-back there were comments of disliking the show being performed in the round due to audience members feeling as if there were missing key expressions and motions of characters. I found myself disagreeing with this view—the loss of expected perception adds to the plot line and more accurately captures real life sequences.

    When one watches a show that is directed in the proscenium there is most-likely the expectations that one can see everything that is taking place on stage, and he or she is able to perceive everything that he or she chooses to take into account. However, with a round depending on the angle of ones seat to the stage certain features of perception are lost. This mimics life in that we do not always have control of what is brought into our sight for our perception. Of course, we retain control of our interpretation of the instance however our conclusions are still impacted by a partial depiction. This adds to the plot because the two sides were often working with partial images of each other, yet a friendship still formed and thrived.

    Beyond this the round offered a more vividly appealing show. The baseball scene was phenomenal. The space was so efficiently used that I found myself wanting to keep tempo with the game. Viewing that scene was somewhat like watching a live movie. There was also a type of fluidity amongst scenes that made the show capture the feeling of a slowly descending spider. There is tension and anticipation, but there is also a natural beauty.

    Lastly, I would also like to touch on Chanel’s post as well. There is much to be learned from silence and other cultures. I think it is easy to judge Reb’s actions as cruel, but what if he judged his not enacting the silence as a form of even stronger cruelty. Danny had a mind that hungered for knowledge, a knowledge that overlooked human suffering for the love of inquiry. Reb cared more about his son’s soul and maybe even his own. The task was done for the sake of his son. How many parents can disagree with doing the best for their children no matter how they may view them at the moment. We should try to understand the actions of another beyond our own understandings. It is legitimate to state that one would never be able to the same thing, but to just say it was cruel in a black and white manner lacks an account for the true depth of Danny and Reb’s relationship. I know Chanel and I can attest to ability to strongly empathize with others–no matter how the relationship appears on the surface exceptional individuals are still crafted.

  4. I must say that I appreciated my encounter with the stage version of “The Chosen” more than I did my encounter with the book in my high school English class. This was partially due to my teacher’s ability to find the preservation of innocence in almost any literary work. I also believe that the work took on a new form since I am more informed about the history of controversy surrounding Israel, and the characters were brought to life beyond the two-dimensional pages of a book.

    During the post show talk-back there were comments of disliking the show being performed in the round due to audience members feeling as if there were missing key expressions and motions of characters. I found myself disagreeing with this view—the loss of expected perception adds to the plot line and more accurately captures real life sequences.

    When one watches a show that is directed in the proscenium there is most-likely the expectations that one can see everything that is taking place on stage, and he or she is able to perceive everything that he or she chooses to take into account. However, with a round depending on the angle of ones seat to the stage certain features of perception are lost. This mimics life in that we do not always have control of what is brought into our sight for our perception. Of course, we retain control of our interpretation of the instance however our conclusions are still impacted by a partial depiction. This adds to the plot because the two sides were often working with partial images of each other, yet a friendship still formed and thrived.

    Beyond this the round offered a more vividly appealing show. The baseball scene was phenomenal. The space was so efficiently used that I found myself wanting to keep tempo with the game. Viewing that scene was somewhat like watching a live movie. There was also a type of fluidity amongst scenes that made the show capture the feeling of a slowly descending spider. There is tension and anticipation, but there is also a natural beauty.

    I would also like to touch on Chanel’s post as well. There is much to be learned from silence and other cultures. I think it is easy to judge Reb’s actions as cruel, but what if he judged his not enacting the silence as a form of even stronger cruelty. Danny had a mind that hungered for knowledge, a knowledge that overlooked human suffering for the love of inquiry. Reb cared more about his son’s soul and maybe even his own. The task was done for the sake of his son. How many parents can disagree with doing the best for their children no matter how they may view them at the moment. We should try to understand the actions of another beyond our own understandings. It is legitimate to state that one would never be able to the same thing, but to just say it was cruel in a black and white manner lacks an account for the true depth of Danny and Reb’s relationship. I know Chanel and I can attest to ability to strongly empathize with others. No matter how relationships appear on the surface exceptional individuals are still crafted.

  5. I enjoyed the play The Chosen probably more than any other I have seen this semester. I felt like it really dove into the issues of familial responsibility versus doing what you are passionate about in the character of Danny Saunders. It was interesting to see that complex relationship between Danny and his father almost work itself out in front of you. At the beginning of the play it seems like they have no relationship at all because Reb Saunders is raising Danny in silences. They only talk when studying Talmud. Once Danny meets Reuvan, Reb Saunders begins to use Reuvan as a buffer to speak to his son. As the play progresses you begin to see Reb’s love for his son and eventually be begins to speak to him again, once he thinks that Danny does have a soul and has felt pain. I feel that this relationship was the most intriguing to me of the whole play and I found myself waiting for scenes between Danny Ruevan and Reb Saunders.

    Another aspect of this play that kept me engaged was the struggle between the Zionists and the anti-Zionists. I felt that after learning about the horrors of the holocaust, it was interesting to hear two people going in such opposite directions about what to do. Reb Saunders stayed with his beliefs and said we can not return to the land of Israel (Palestine) without the coming of the massiah. Reuvan’s father David Malter was clear that Jews must have a place to call their own in the land of Israel. I didn’t realize before how much this issue split the Jewish people and this play helped me understand that.

    Overall I really enjoyed The Chosen. I felt it stayed true to Chaim Potok’s novel and was a very emotional description of life in these times.

  6. I am a baseball nut. So when a play begins with a scene on the diamond, it can do no wrong. But honestly, I love the opening scene of “The Chosen” , for reasons other than baseball related.
    I especially loved the entire set-up and the venue that the play took place in. The square setting made it very easy to see the entire play at once. The setting seemed apprioate, as there are four main characters in the play and a baseball diamond has four bases. It just all seemed to fit.
    The effects, from the lighting and sounds of the stage also came across very well. It set the right mood and tone for the moments in the play. Once again, my favorite scene in the play where the sound effects came across great were at the baseball scene. The sounds of the bat making contact and the sounds of the ball hitting the glove were well done.
    It was interesting to see how the play only had four characters and they were all male. Perhaps it might have interesting to see a female perspective of the play, but I do not know one could actually be included.
    Overall, this was definitely was one better play I had a chance to see. It took a look at the issue that really displayed the father-son relationship. It is a very powerful bond and it sometimes can even go unnoticed by much of society.

  7. After reading the book The Chosen by Chaim Potok, I was not sure how it would translate to stage play. The plot was thick with characters and substantive story lines that seemed vital to understanding relationships. Boy, was I in for a surprise when I walked into Arena Stage. Adapter and director Aaron Posner hit this one out of the park (no pun intended).

    Right off the bat (pun intended) I was glued to the story unfolding in front of me as the baseball game became real in the arena. The staging of this show using theatre in the round was captivating and inventive- it had to be to keep the audience engaged on all four sides. The depth of the stage and ability to move on so many planes added an entirely new layer to the theatre going experience. Despite the remarks from some audience members during the talk back, I thought that this was a perfect show to do in the round. If one could not see the face of the character speaking, he or she had to look at the other person listening. The actors did a superb job of this. From my seat, I could not see Reb Saunders during the climax confrontation scene, but I saw Danny as he paced back and forth, trembling at the words of his father. The reaction was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

    Listening and silence clearly played an important role throughout the play. To teach through silence had its benefits and costs as demonstrated by what Danny learned through his father’s silence along with the pain and sorrow it caused him. I was touched by Chanel’s comment about how the silence with her father has affected her life. I personally do not believe in using silence to teach sympathy and to feel the pain of others but I can understand that this seemingly cruel act was meant with the best intentions. And for Danny, it may be difficult to be upset with the silence because it was what led him to Reuven.

    At the core of The Chosen is a beautiful story of friendship between Reuven and Danny. The play included Aristotle’s quote, “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies,” and it made me reflect on my friendships and how lucky I am to have someone in my life like Reuven has Danny. Whether seen in the play or read in the book, we see how no obstacle, no matter how large or small, can break up true friendship.

    I would be remiss if I did not mention the incredible acting of Rick Foucheux, Edward Gero, Aaron Davidman, Joshua Morgan, and especially Derek Kahn Thompson. May they receive many more standing ovations in their performances to come.

  8. While all the actors in Theater J’s production of “The Chosen” did a commendable job with difficult and complex theatrical material, I was largely unmoved with the storyline of the play, yet paradoxically impressed by how it was performed and produced. I really enjoyed the stage setup and thought that the transitions between the “houses” and young and old Reuvan were particularly clean and fluid.

    That said, coming from a secular feminist perspective as I was, I left the theater not only feeling that I had just seen another generically andocentric play, but also one that demonstrated the instability and hypocrisy of intense religious authority. Authority within the play, whether it came from the two fathers or from religious leaders and laws, was concentrated in the hands of men who wielded it with archaic and abrasive personal agendas. It frustrated me to watch the characters only see and judge others through their personal relationship with Judaism. This occurs specifically when the Rabbi judges Reuvan’s religious knowledge to determine his “worthiness” as a friend to his son. This is not only ethnocentric and largely ignorant, but judgmental in the extreme.

    Moreover, while the father-son/male bonding relationships that were shown in the play were important, intimate, and deserve stage time, the intense focus on men coupled with the intense religious focus distanced me from the characters. Personally, the play struck me as a play only about men and their ascendance or decline within a male dominated religious society. I can understand that this play did cover shaky ground with tough subject matter, but overall I did not feel that I gained a new insight from it as it told a story that I have seen before.

  9. Yesterday I attended a performance of “The Chosen”, my first visit to Arena Stage since returning to DC after 26 years of living in Germany. I had read the novel years ago; and it became a door for me, a gentile, to enter into the world of Orthodox Judaism. Since then I have read extensively about Judaism and about the culture and religion especially in the time of Jesus. While my father did not exert pressure on me to follow his occupation, he showed no sympathy for my interest in and attraction to another religion. During the play I found myself wishing that we could have had conversations like some of those in the drama.

    I found the setting of “The Chosen” as a stage play very effective and the actors excellent. I will read the novel again soon.

    I particularly liked having the opportunity to listen to interviews and ask questions at the session after the play, called “Scripture Unscripted”. This experience added another dimension to the afternoon and helped me “digest” what I had heard and felt during the play.

    Thank you for making all this possible. It was I day which I will long hold in memory.

  10. Michael nailed the theme of the play when he brought up the opening line from the play, “both these words and those are the words of God.” Yes, the factions of Judaism (and most religions, for that matter) are often at odds with each other, but the same God informs them all.

    Attending the performance of “The Chosen” initially worried me, because I knew that I was going to be hit with a lot of religious dialect and jargon—and that was certainly true. However, I found that the Talmud and of its intricacies were not the focus of the play, and that the bonds of friendship and fatherhood were. I think that component that made this possible was the narrator, the older Reuven. I found his stage presence fantastic, and every movement he made even when not involved in the action showed discipline yet was natural. I particularly enjoyed the part where he put on his ball cap to mimic his old baseball coach and Danny’s psychology professor, as it showed great range of character.

    I think that the strongest point of the performance was the silence shared between Reb and Danny. It flummoxed me initially. However, there were small moments during the play that showed that the silence was not supposed to be cruel and torturous, but rather a foreign form of love.

    The only part of the play I did not enjoy greatly was Reb’s sermon. First, I found him hard to understand. Second, I thought that the older Reuven could have informed the audience of the numbers game before we were turned off completely. Oh, I would love to have missed a few minutes of that monologue.

    Bravo to Arena Stage for taking on “The Chosen,” and to Theater J for turning out another marvelous performance.

  11. A part of The Chosen that caught my attention, and was also discussed in the discussion following the show, was the scene where the older and younger Reuven interact. In the scene it appears that the younger Reuven is talking to himself, and trying to figure out his life path. However, while he is doing so the older Reuven speaks to him, as if he is challenging him to think. I was caught off guard by this scene because until this moment in the play, the older Reuven had not interacted with any of the other characters. Instead, he played a role as the narrating character and his perception of events from hindsight. The only times before this scene where the older Reuven interacted with the characters was when he was taking on the persona of other outside characters in the play, such as the coach, or friend of his father’s. Therefore, when the older Reuven and younger Reuven were directly facing one another and appeared to be conversing I was confused. I was glad that another man in the audience asked about this scene after the show, and was further comforted that he was still confused about the scene after seeing the play twice.

    Overall, I enjoyed the piece. It was a unique experience seeing The Chosen done in the round. I had never experienced a play done in the round before this piece. Some people in the post-show discussion were judgmental of this aspect of the adaptation because it was difficult to see all of the characters in each scene. However, I thought it was interesting that almost every member of the audience had a unique vantage point throughout the play. From my seat in the theater, I rarely saw Reb’s face because his back was to me as he sat at his desk for a large portion of the scenes. I thought this was a good representation of his character, because he was inaccessible, especially to his son Danny.

  12. I feel that The Chosen‘s cast displayed acting prowess unparalleled to any other production I have attended this term. What struck me most was the blocking of the play, where actors moved around a square stage surrounded by audience members. Several times throughout the play I could see only the backs of actors, but in doing so I was able to see the reactions of those being spoken to. I found the direction of the play, along with the lighting and sound synced so well that I truly believed I was an active member of the story.

    The Chosen depicts a coming of age story of two young men from vastly different upbringings. Danny is raised in the Hassidic tradition while Rueven is raised in a less Orthodox household. The two boys start off as enemies, and grow into best friends as they learn about one another and find similarities in their character and passions.

    The changing relationship between Danny and Rueven particularly intrigued me. At the start of their friendship, the two simply played off of one another’s surface interests such as baseball and reading. However, in their later years the two become one another’s confidants. This ultimately leads to their use of one another as a backbone during trying times with family members and self-realizations. For example, Danny’s inability to express himself to Reb Saunder’s leaves Rueven as an intermediating link between a father and son who would otherwise never speak. Danny’s friendship with Rueven allows him to hear what his father would otherwise hide; ultimately allowing Reb Saunder’s to give Danny his blessing to study psychology.

    Overall, I felt the play was beautifully crafted. The actors brought an intellect to the production that I had not seen so brilliantly illustrated before. The quiet moments where Danny would attempt to speak to his father or an instance where Rueven wanted to comfort his friend but decided against doing so, were all instances that drew audience members into the true emotion of the story.

  13. Typically when we go to see plays, I am focused solely on the acting-the dialogue between characters, their expressions and their interactions. However, in the Chosen, I found myself mesmerized by the staging, the lighting and the sound…things that I almost always take for granted. My focus on the staging has a lot to do with the fact that it was presented in the round, an aspect that I felt added a lot to the play. It lent itself perfectly to the baseball scenes, where the audience truly felt like the crowds of fans in the bleachers. They impressed me with their ability to play catch without a baseball, and their reaction times were spot-on with the sound effects. I also loved the faux-walls created by the hanging window sets. It allowed my imagination to fill in the blanks while allowing a pretty clear view of each interaction through the “walls”.

    Another aspect of the play that I thought about long after we left the theater was the way that many of my fellow audience members struggled with the silence that Reb Saunders raised his son with. In the post-show discussion, many of the people who raised their hands spoke out vehemently against the silent treatment Reb Saunders imposed on his son. They felt that it was a mistake, and a product of Reb Saunders tortured past. The actors almost always responded in defense of the father, which I felt was important. It signals that they, like Reb Saunders, have grappled with the material and that choice for a lot longer than the audience. I imagine that the characters began to understand the parenting style as the family did: a difficult, heart-wrenching struggle, but one that could only be understood and appreciated after a long period of reflection.

    I remember reading the Chosen as a young teenager, but I do not think I grasped the story at all. Although the relationships between the characters may be complex, the story is very human and I was completely engaged in their struggles to relate to one another throughout the play. It was beautifully done, thank you to all of the actors and crew!

  14. Of the plays we have seen this semester, “The Chosen” was my favorite. I felt so touched by the friendship between Danny and Reuven, and so upset by Danny’s relationship with his father. Because I became so connected to the characters and their relationships, it seemed that every emotion I felt during this play was magnified.

    Like Rachel, Aristotle’s quotation, “Friendship is a single soul dwelling in two bodies,” struck me and I began to reflect on my own friendships. I too have been lucky enough to have a friend as close to me as Danny is to Reuven. What they share is so unique and complex. As Danny’s largely silent father communicates to him through Reuven, their friendship acts as an integral part of Danny’s relationship with his father.

    Many audience members were concerned by Reb Saunders’ silence. One viewer even argued that the silence was poor parenting. But Reb Saunders had unique (and deliberate) reasons for maintaining this silence. To me, he shows his love for his son in other ways. For example, although the two are usually silent, there is a passion that fuels their discussions of the Talmud. The complexity of their relationship was particularly intriguing.

    Along with the roller coaster of emotions the production stirred, I thought the staging was excellent. Performed in the round, I was not always able to see the actors’ expressions, but I could always decipher the action and emotion from the actors that I could see. One actor even commented in the post-show discussion that he actively seeks to reflect the words he receives from other characters. I thought this was very impressive. Because I had a unique vantage point, I felt more involved and engaged in the story. In my opinion, the performance in the round enhanced the production and overall experience rather than detracting from it.

  15. The Chosen was a different kind of play from what we have previously seen, both in its content and set-up. Watching this play performed in the round was a new experience for me, as was the conflict between a more secular or contemporary Jewish family and a conservative, orthodox one. The intricacies of the Jewish faith and culture were shown well throughout the performance, and allowed the audience to understand and appreciate the differences, as well as the uniting similarities, between the two families.

    I thought that performing in the round would be strange both for the audience and the actors, but I found that there were no real problems with the performance. In fact, I rather enjoyed the 360 degree feel, as well as the set that was allowed to show both sides of the story simultaneously. The ability of older Reuven to stand between both worlds as the drama unfolded that allows him to comment on both families, while also representing the audience, who is stuck in the middle of all this.

    By far the most emotional and crushing part of the performance was watching Daniel’s chilling relationship with his father. I can respect Reb Saunders’ silence for fear of not stimulating Daniel’s mind in the right way, but I cannot begin to imagine accepting his way of thinking. The audience can see the pain that Daniel feels in trying to communicate with his father, only to be shot down at every turn. While Reb’s decision eventually leads to Daniel’s wisdom and ability to “listen to silence,” what cost has been paid for this gift? The trauma of years of silence seems to overpower any positive aspects of Reb’s teaching tool, as Daniel feels emotionally pushed from his home, which may have contributed to his decision to reject his birthright as leader of the synagogue. I would think that after realizing his son’s great intelligence, Reb Saunders would work to expose Daniel to every source of information imaginable, so as to give him a rounded education to augment his intelligence. Daniel had the capacity to be an outstanding leader, as he was both wise and intelligent, but I feel like his relationship with his father pushed him away from the synagogue and toward the field of psychiatry.

    I was interested to see how this play differed from most of the other shows we have seen this semester, which have portrayed the conflict between Jews and Arabs. Instead, with this piece, we are able to look into the discrepancies and differences within the Jewish community, which helps us better understand the conflict and the parties involved. The Chosen was able to take two seemingly opposed sides and bring them together by the end, as it showed how each side overlapped with the other.

  16. I must say that I appreciated my encounter with the stage version of “The Chosen” more than I did my encounter with the book in my high school English class. This was partially due to my teacher’s ability to find the preservation of innocence in almost any literary work. I also believe that the work took on a new form since I am more informed about the history of controversy surrounding Israel, and the characters were brought to life beyond the two-dimensional pages of a book.

    During the post show talk-back there were comments of disliking the show being performed in the round due to audience members feeling as if there were missing key expressions and motions of characters. I found myself disagreeing with this view—the loss of expected perception adds to the plot line and more accurately captures real life sequences.

    When one watches a show that is directed in the proscenium there is most-likely the expectations that one can see everything that is taking place on stage, and he or she is able to perceive everything that he or she chooses to take into account. However, with a round depending on the angle of ones seat to the stage certain features of perception are lost. This mimics life in that we do not always have control of what is brought into our sight for our perception. Of course, we retain control of our interpretation of the instance however our conclusions are still impacted by a partial depiction. This adds to the plot because the two sides were often working with partial images of each other, yet a friendship still formed and thrived.

    Beyond this the round offered a more vividly appealing show. The baseball scene was phenomenal. The space was so efficiently used that I found myself wanting to keep tempo with the game. Viewing that scene was somewhat like watching a live movie. There was also a type of fluidity amongst scenes that made the show capture the feeling of a slowly descending spider. There is tension and anticipation, but there is also a natural beauty.

    I would also like to touch on Chanel’s post as well. There is much to be learned from silence and other cultures. I think it is easy to judge Reb’s actions as cruel, but what if he judged his not enacting the silence as a form of even stronger cruelty. Danny had a mind that hungered for knowledge, a knowledge that overlooked human suffering for the love of inquiry. Reb cared more about his son’s soul and maybe even his own. The task was done for the sake of his son. How many parents can disagree with doing the best for their children no matter how they may view them at the moment. We should try to understand the actions of another beyond our own understandings. It is legitimate to state that one would never be able to the same thing, but to just say it was cruel in a black and white manner lacks an account for the true depth of Danny and Reb’s relationship. I know Chanel and I can attest to her ability to strongly empathize with others. No matter how the relationship appears on the surface exceptional individuals are still crafted.

  17. The first, obvious part of the play I picked up on was the differences portrayed between Danny and Reuven. What were the differences exactly? The way they dressed and their approach to Judaism was slightly different. That was pretty much it. Both were young boys who enjoyed reading and were proud of their religion and loved to play baseball. It would have been great to include this piece of theater in my paper because my topic focused on conflicts within the family (and friends). The Chosen really made me think about father-son relationships and the impact they can have on both the father and son’s lives.

    The best part of the experience was definitely the set up and the post show discussion with the actors. It was the first time I have been to a performance where the audience was on all sides of the stage. I do have to say some of the dialogues and action away from my seat were hard to hear but I know from the post show discussion the actors also have difficulties with a stage that has the audience surround it. Josh Morgan (Danny) and David Kahn Thompson (young Reuven) explained the challenges of talking and positioning themselves on off angles so they don’t block the other side of the audience when having face to face dialogue with another character. Also, they explained the difficulty in speaking loud enough for all to hear and keeping their voice at a level to give a scene the appropriate tone, emotion, and feeling. Another interesting part of the after show talk was my curiosity with Aaron Davidman and his portrayal of multiple “minor” characters. He responded to my question by saying he had to work out different voices and mannerisms. He said to get into character so fast at different times throughout the play he would have mental images of the characters he was playing and they would trigger the “inner character” and that was his routine in changing from character to character. It was quite the sight to see because I would believe changing like that in the middle of scenes must be one of the most difficult things in live performances.

    The play was great and I felt Arena Stage really brought it to life effectively with the stage shape, size, and sound. The cast was small and did a great job telling the story in a way that was appealing for the entire 2+ hours. The book is read by younger children and older men and women but I did not feel the play was “childish” at all. Aaron Posner’s adaption of The Chosen was definitely a top 2 or 3 play that I have seen in DC thus far.

  18. As someone outside of the Jewish faith, The Chosen felt somewhat inaccessible. As a man, however, the play’s depiction of boyhood, friendship, and growing up struck a chord within me. I found that The Chosen took a story with simple plot and found an innovative to interpret it. Like Return to Haifa before it, The Chosen found significance in the common ground shared by opposites, in their moments of union. This theme of union has recurred throughout many of the plays we’ve seen this semester and, given topic matter such as the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, I think it’s less than coincidental. As stated, I found resonance with the play’s realization of two boys’ realizations of both their paths and their identities; each seems to make peace with what the other wrestles with and, in this, they are inverses, reciprocals of the other. I was really taken with Joshua Morgan’s interpretation of a boy tied to tradition yet yearning for something inexpressible by his facilitates. His nuanced and detailed embodiment of innocence married to dissatisfaction recalled the awkward transitory age in which the play places its young characters. While this play is uniquely Jewish, it is also uniquely American and in nostalgic fashion. Its integration of an almost anthropological view into two polar Jewish families with the iconic imagery of mid-Twentieth Century America (baseball, FDR, melting pot culture, first generation American families) made for an experience that was new but also familiar. I struggled with the lack of feminine presence in The Chosen. I do wonder what it would have added to include a matriarchal figure or a girl character, as gender is undoubtedly a vital component of growing into adulthood. However, when the play concluded, the most resounding contribution of the play remained its realization of two boys and their rebuke of expectations. And, in this rebuke, they discover themselves. This discovery, this journey taken together, transcends the religious elements of the play and becomes, as clichéd as it is, the universality that becomes the cornerstone of Danny and Reuven’s story. So, Jewish or not Jewish, I liked this production’s admittance that the transition to adulthood is not easy. The message that it does not have to be lonely, however, is the moral of Danny and Reuven’s union.

  19. Entering the Arena Stage theater the first thing that caught my attention was the set up of the stage and the set itself. I noticed immediately that there were two “rooms” each equipped with a desk and chairs. I wondered how the actors were going to move around the stage and deliver their lines, and I wondered if everyone in the audience would be able to hear them. During the talk back I thought there were some very interesting questions and comments, some of which I was wondering as well. One woman asked the panel why there were no women or hardly any mention of women in the play. I was wondering this same question as well, but because the panel ran out of time this question was not addressed. As soon as I sat down and looked over the playbook I realized there were no female characters. I believe that plays can be complete and fulfilling without actors of both genders, however I felt that the play did not sufficiently mention the obvious involvement of women in the lives of the men, whether they were mothers, or sisters, or female friends to Danny or Reuven. I found their exclusion from the narrative apparent and bothersome. Overall, I believe the five actors eloquently made use of the circular space and managed to engage the entire audience in this narrative of friendship and growing-up. The actors delivered a memorable and touching story of divisions within the same faith, and overcoming obstacles to retain lasting bonds of friendship.

  20. I, unfortunately, was not able to attend The Chosen with my classmates on March 17th but had the pleasant experience of going on my own for the March 26th matinée. My first reaction to my solo adventure to the Arena Stage actually has to do with the physical act of going to the theater on my own and what taking this course has opened up in me. I grew up not only going to theater constantly with my mother, but also performing on stage in every show that would have me. However, somewhere in the midst of college, between lack of money, time, and initiative, I lost that need for theater in my formative years. Going to the show on my own on Saturday gave me time to reflect on why I was in such a good mood on my Metro ride back to 1608 Rhode Island. I realized that this class has reminded me of is how much joy I derive from just sitting in the audience and how much I have missed the theater. I came home and immediately looked into purchasing a season subscription to Berkeley Rep and even looked for community theaters that allow non-equity actors audition. So, first and foremost, thank you Ari.

    Now, about The Chosen. While the acting was moving and the adaptation beautiful what I was really taken with was how well the show worked in the round. I overheard two gentleman speaking about how they didn’t really like it because they thought they lost so much of the story, but I thought it worked flawlessly. Similar to Rachel and Soumya, I didn’t find it to be distracting when you could not see an actor’s face while he was speaking. Performing in the round leaves no moment for any actor to break character without some audience member catching it, therefore it is a testament to the superior acting of this ensemble that they were able to stay engaged which kept every audience member, no matter where they were sitting, equally engaged. Furthermore, I felt the director truly took advantage of the opportunities that performing in the round provides with strategic staging that used every inch of that stage to propel the story. Clearly, I was entertained by the actor’s performances and Mr. Posner’s adaptation, I am not sure I would have been inspired to buy season theater tickets had I not been. Yet, I came away from my Saturday afternoon at the Arena Stage feeling as though Mr. Posner’s direction was what made this show so effortlessly easy to enjoy.

  21. During the post-show discussion of The Chosen, audience members brought up the absence of female characters in the play. They mentioned that it seemed unlikely that both boys would grow up without a mother figure in their homes. While I made this observation during the performance, I assumed that there was a reason for the play’s entirely male cast, although the novel involved female characters.

    One thread that runs throughout the play was the reflection between Reuven and Danny’s home lives. This idea becomes apparent early on, when the audience notices that the set is arranged as mirror images of its two sides. It is then continued during the two boys’ conversations with their fathers. Both of their lives run parallel while there are obvious differences between the two. Therefore, there is a high degree of symmetry in the play that is achieved most effectively with a small cast. When the two plot lines intersect, with Danny choosing a life similar to Reuven’s father’s while Reuven becomes a rabbi like Reb Saunders, the audience is able draw a connection between the two characters.

    Had the play included female characters, they would most likely be the boys’ mothers. The portrayal of Danny’s life would be very different with the presence of his mother. Danny struggles with silence in his house. His father, Reb Saunders, only speaks to Danny about religion. What is so remarkable about Danny’s development is that he learns to look within himself and to learn from self reflection. He realizes his interest in Freud and leaves his religious life to become a psychologist. Therefore, through Reb Saunders’s attempts to raise his son as a rabbi, he actually leads Danny to recognize opportunities in other fields.

    Meanwhile, Reuven, whose father raises him more liberally, realizes that he appreciates tradition and religion and eventually aspires to become a rabbi. This tradeoff between the two shows how people’s pursuits and interests can completely contrast their upbringing. This balance between symmetry and difference is achieved by creating a parallel between the two boys’ circumstances. Therefore, because Danny’s story would be less poignant with the presence of a woman, Reuven’s life should also not include a mother. I believe that nothing was lost in this play through the exclusion of a female cast.

  22. Thus far, The Chosen was the best play I’ve seen to date. Both the acting and the story was very powerful. I could feel the brotherhood constantly growing between Reuvan and Danny throughout the play. The highlight of this I think was when they met each other again after not talking for a long time and it has been if nothing had happened at all. I completely felt the high tension in the play between their two fathers. Danny’s father was particularly powerful. He had a presence when he entered the play and it was very intense when he started yelling at Reuvan, he played his part very well. I would usually frown upon raising a child in silence but the play gave a good enough explanation for me to not worry about that detail. I really liked the irony at the end of the play where Ruevan and Danny swapped careers. That felt realistic in the sense that life likes to play tricks on people. Both were so set on becoming one thing but at the end they chose a completely different route.

    The Chosen also lead some insight into the Jewish Community that I didn’t know before. I did not know that within the community there are Hasidic Jews and that there were opposing factions between establishing a state and not establishing a state. Previously in school I only learned American and European history so I never knew this.

    I had another pleasant surprise when the actors came out for the post show discussion. Reuvan and older Reuvan felt more or less the same as their characters but Danny and his father were completely different. Danny wasn’t as stiff and spoke a lot more. His father wasn’t the scary guy he was playing on the stage at all. I was surprised how into character these actors got.

  23. ‘The Chosen” was my first exposure to theater performed in a round rather than that more traditional stage version, and though occasionally frustrated that I couldn’t always see the expressions of the actors, it was a great experience. Excuse my pun here, but the ability of the characters to move around the set added a whole new dimension to the story.

    I’m not sure if it’s just me, but I never felt myself with any empathy towards the Hasidic culture in the play. I can’t understand why anyone would decide to live like that. I understand, typically its not a silent family atmosphere, but I fail to see how a dress code is in any way some sort of reverence or that strict devotion to study of the Talmud is the way to live one’s life. It seems to me that understanding and compassion are much more important.

    The use of the sons to tell the story was brilliant as was the introductory baseball scene. I found myself wanting much more baseball (particularly in comparison to Reb Saunder’s sermon) particularly because of how precise the acting/sound was at that portion of the play. The older/younger Danny were in perfect harmony as they pitched the ball back and forth. It was an incredibly well done performance by their characters.

    In the climactic moment however, when Daniel informs Reb Saunders that his son will not become a rabbi and lead his people, I do not “buy” his reaction. I don’t think he would’ve easily accepted that decision given his attitude for the previous 18 years of his son’s life. I felt it would have been met with much more anger and pressure from his father to take over his place. But then again, what do I know about the Hasidic culture.

    All in all, I thought it was a great performance and regardless of my beliefs on particular angles of the play, I enjoyed it immensely.

    On a side note, it may be more efficient if every usher did not have to check every ticket and tell someone directions to their seat every 8 steps.

  24. Life always plays on the line of irony. Nothing can be absolutely assured. The play ” The Chosen” is a play on the line of irony told through the life of two families. We have Reuven, the one and only son in the family, who loves reading books on science, psychology. And we have Danny, the son which his father wish him one day to become the master rabbi and lead the Jewish community. The moment Danny meets Reuven, both realized the wonder of the opposite world– the “forbidden” world; it was so intriguing and fascinating. For Danny, Reuven’s life is something he may have wished to live– to interact with his father, to pursue after his own dream, to be able to read all and every interesting book and to explore the world beyond his community. For Reuven, Danny’s life is very different, something he had never experienced before. The clash of the two worlds establishes the foundation of the plot and it also brings out the irony of life.
    Danny’s father is able to connect with Danny through Reuven. And Reuven’s father is able to learn more about Reuven through observing the friendship between Danny and his son. This part of the play has been overly done in many stories yet seeing it again in “The Chosen” felt strangely refreshing, powerful and anew. The way the actors performs draws out the soul of the character and connects to the audience. Eye contacts are sometimes very powerful in plays and are widely used in this play. There are moments in this play when Danny is having a dialogue, he is staring right at my direction. It felt as if he was speaking directly to me.
    The lighting and the sound effects of the play particularly grabbed my attention and interest. In my opinion this play has the best lighting and sound effects timing of all the plays I have watched in class. For instance, when Reuven is standing in the middle of the stage, all the surroundings becomes pitch dark except for him, or the moment when Reuven got hit by a the baseball and the light turns red with the ambulance sound reverberating. These are all my favorite moments of “The Chosen”.

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