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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Cast Excels in In Tandem's 'The Chosen'

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In Tandem's fine new production, Chaim Potok's The Chosen, thoughtfully illustrates the paradox of two highly principled young Orthodox Jews living in Brooklyn in households with completely divergent approaches to the Talmud. Reuven Malter (well played by Eric Schabla) is a modern Jew less inclined to pursue a destiny dictated only by tradition, but willing to follow his father's footsteps to a life of teaching and writing. Danny Saunders, however, adheres to the strict, unvarying principles adhered to by a father who finds it unnecessary to speak and communicates with his son only through Reuven, Danny's new friend.

The boys' friendship results after Reuven accidentally injures Danny at a baseball game; their finely tuned rivalry comes from time spent in silent study, which tempers the pace of the first act. The tone of the understated drama is set in motion only by the badly needed, expert performance of Matt Daniels, who plays multiple roles while narrating the action. This device adds contrast to the stage action while barely averting a point of diminishing returns.

The play gains startling, effective momentum when the Holocaust's full impact comes to light, strengthening the youths' resolve to firm up their life destinies. An outstanding cast brings a winning resolve to the proceedings, which feel genuine and poignant. Bill Watson is stentorian in a riveting presentation of Rabbi Saunders and James Tasse brings a needed, sympathetic portrayal to Reuven's father. The lighting and set designs of Doug Vance and Rick Rasmussen allow the small stage to accommodate two sets of action simultaneously. Chris Flieller's fine direction deserves full credit.

The Chosen
runs through March 25. For more information, visit www.intandemtheatre.org.

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