adapted by Aaron Posner & Chaim
from the novel by Chaim Potok
March 21 - April 12, 2008
Directed by Brenda Williams
What begins as a bitter
rivalry between Reuven and Danny, on the baseball field transforms into a unique
and challenging friendship in THE CHOSEN, a play based
on the celebrated novel of the same name.
In 1967, Chaim Potok burst upon the literary scene with his first novel
"The Chosen," sometimes referred to as the
"Jewish Catcher in the Rye."
A best-seller, it was also nominated for the National Book Award, and through
the years has become a must-read both in and out of the classroom.
The book was
republished in 1992 in celebration of its 25th anniversary as a young readerís
classic. A film starring Rod Steiger, based on the novel, was released in 1981,
and a short-lived Off-Broadway musical debuted in 1988. Before his death in
2002, Chaim Potok collaborated with theater director Aaron Posner on the stage
version, which debuted in 1999. Set against the backdrop of World War II, the
Holocaust and the struggle of Zionism, the plot is surprisingly not so religious
or political, but very human.
The play unfolds as a memory of Reuven Malter, now grown and a rabbi. His memory
reveals two teen-age boys and their fathers in 1944 in a bustling Jewish
neighborhood in Brooklyn. Young Reuven is a modern Orthodox Jewish teen who
lives with his widowed father, a respected scholar. Reuven is a math whiz and
the star pitcher of his high school baseball team. "Five
blocks and a world away" lives Danny Saunders, the son
of a strict Hasidic tzaddik, the spiritual leader of an ultra conservative
Jewish sect. Danny is a brilliant young man, the expected heir to his father's
congregation and the star batter on his yeshiva's
baseball team. The two teens meet on the baseball diamond as bitter rivals, and
when Danny purposefully hits the ball straight at Reuven, Reuven ends up in the
hospital with a concussion and a severe eye injury. When Danny chooses to visit
his rival in the hospital, the two strike up an unlikely friendship.
"The Talmud says that a person should do two things
for himself. One is to acquire a teacher. Do you know the other? Choose a
friend," David Malter explains to his son Reuven one
day. As fate would have it, when the boys befriend each other, they also acquire
a teacher in the otherís father. As time passes, Danny devours novels
recommended by Mr. Malter, and explores the work of Sigmund Freud, all secular
literature that is strictly forbidden by his father. Through his exploration, he
realizes he wants to become a psychologist. On the other hand, Reuven dives into
religious debates with Danny's father, Reb Saunders,
and comes to realize that he wants to be a rabbi, despite his own father's
belief that he'd make a good professor. Over the
course of four years, the young men, in effect, trade places and slowly reach a
better understanding of their fathers, their faith and themselves.