Chaim Potok’s novel, THE CHOSEN, has been adapted into a play, a movie, even a Broadway musical. The dramatic version up at the Lyric Stage (through November 17th) was adapted by Potok himself and Aaron Posner. The author uses the past participle in his story (as in God’s Chosen People) to address choices: The disastrous choices made by nations to ignore what was happening in Germany; and personal choices that parents make in rearing their children, specifically the unfortunate choice one father makes to shut out his son---and the loving way another chooses to nurture his.
It’s ironic that the spiritual leader of his Hasidic community (Joel Colodner in a magnificent performance) in 1940s Brooklyn should give his son the silent treatment (he says, to teach him humility) when the silence of world leaders who knew about the Holocaust had such dire consequences. Luke Murtha plays his wounded son with such gentle sadness that our hearts go out to him, despite the fact that he brains another boy with a baseball in a game against students from a reformed Jewish neighborhood (whom the Hasidic spiritual leader calls “non-Jews”).
Murtha’s and Zachary Eisenstat’s characters become fast friends, after apologies are offered and accepted. The play follows the boys from middle school through university, making important choices on their own. Daniel Gidron’s cast makes their small stories resonate large. Murtha and Eisenstat are delightfully yin and yang, learning from their differences. Charles Linshaw sometimes voices Eisenstat’s character as the narrator, which is a bit confusing at first until you absorb the conceit. Will McGarrahan gives the other father a warm, bemused personality, in contrast to the rabbi’s unyielding silence.