Danny, a young Hasidic Orthodox batter, smashes a baseball — apparently with much malice aforethought — into the face of Reuven, the opposing pitcher, an Orthodox boy who represents a more modern approach to observance. Reuven’s shattered glasses endanger his vision, but it is stereotypes that are shattered, and the vision of both boys is altered by the incident and the unlikely friendship that ensues. In 1967 Chaim Potok skyrocketed to fame with The Chosen.
This very Jewish book became an international best-seller by somehow making the insular and often divisive lives of Orthodox Jewish sects in New York during World War Two understandable not only to mainstream Jews but also to non-Jews. The conflicts and passions of religious Jews, it seems, are actually not so arcane. They are universal themes that resonate with thinking people everywhere. The 1981 movie version took expected cinematic liberties – perhaps the most incomprehensible of which was casting Robbie Benson as Danny Saunders, which had not a few people thinking they may be able to understand the ways of Hasidic Jews, but they will never comprehend the thinking of Hollywood casting directors.
The Chosen was rendered into a play format by Potok together with Aaron Posner, and this play is now being adapted for the Jerusalem Stage by Merkaz HaMagshimim Hadassah’s Center Stage Theater, co-directed by Jeremy Saltan and Rafi Poch. Poch said, “When Reuven is injured by Danny during a heated baseball game between their rival yeshivot, a unique friendship is born. As the boys grow to manhood, they are forced to learn important lessons about each other, their fathers and themselves. This is a story of friendship, family and difficult choices that we must all make on our path to understanding, respect and reconciliation.”
Saltan modestly added, “The Chosen will be the best show Jerusalem has seen in a long time. It has the strongest cast since… A true must see!” The cast is a strength (Robbie Benson wouldn’t have even made the short list). Reuven Malter is sensitively brought to life by Coren Feldman, a talented and surprisingly experienced actor who has been onstage and backstage in and around Jerusalem almost uninterruptedly since he was 10 years old. Danny is convincingly portrayed by Yair Goldstein, and the chemistry between the two is a pleasure to watch as their antipathy turns to a bond of friendship and love. Simon Montagu adds warmth and wisdom as Reuven’s father and Rabbi David Golinken does an admirable job of imbuing Danny’s father with humanity instead of seeming like a stereotype.
The curtain goes up on Jan: 24th, 25th, 27th, 28th, 31st, and Feb. 1st all at 8 pm, and on Jan. 30th at 8:30 PM. All performances are at 7a Dor Dor v’Dorshav in the German Colony in Jerusalem.
Tickets are 60 shekels, with discounts for students, soldiers, children, pensioners. Also special group prices available! Call 02 672 2405 or go to www.themerkaz.org