I have been libeled as a wanderer/this is not the case/I have a home/it’s just that it’s an inconvenient place right now…A giant shipping crate opens to reveal the band/actors. Its interior might be a gypsy caravan, tenement or formerly occupied transport for desperate illegal immigrants. The Wanderer (Ben Caplan), author/narrator/vocalist/musician sets a scenario…Welcome, welcome, hello audience!/ We made it! You made it! Others were not so lucky…This is…
about immigrants and Jews and it’s about refugees and in particular Jewish refugees/ But we hope you can see something of yourself in it…Caplan looks like a snake oil salesman from the old west, the guy who does the “ding” (the pitch outside a tent) on early Coney Island, an evangelist. It’s 1908 in Halifax, Canada. Refugees flood the docks.
Mary Fay Coady and Chris Weatherstone
Chaim (Chris Weatherstone – also plays excellent multiple woodwinds) awkwardly approaches Chaya (Mary Fay Coady – also plays fine violin). They’re on line to be medically “inspected.” … just a little degradation/before you can join our nation/you accept our invitation/conditional on a verified and certified certificate of sanitation…He has a rash, she a cough.
It turns out they’re both Jewish, both from Romania. His entire family was brutally killed in a pogrom (later description is heartrending) while Chaya’s, excepting her husband who died of typhus, made it to Canada en masse. Chaim passionately embraces new opportunity while the young woman plans to go home when things clear up. Conversation is monosyllabic. Some time later they meet in Montreal. He wants to marry her. She’s five years older, armored, hesitant; still…they marry.
As the experienced one, Chaya must introduce Chiam to sex. (A song about what’s traditionally expected of whom is illuminating and wry.) In order to turn her mind from her first husband, her new spouse reveals something mean. His wife withdraws. The relationship is difficult, contentious. At last, she simply wants a child.
Mary Fay Coady
The Wanderer sings about being flexible with the letter of the law, even one’s “Good Book.” This number, though clever, is too contemporary for me…always have a bit of salt with tequila/don’t smoke your stash if you’re gonna be a dealer/try to drink at least eight cups of water every day…There’s lots of the f word. Bringing issues into real time makes it easier to “get” parallels, but spoon-feeding those in the audience presumably less able to understand is rarely good for a play. This is the single device with which I disagree.
What does Old Stock mean? Those who took root somewhere before you, their parents, first settlers? There’s always a group who declares itself purer in blood; entitled, territorial; suspicious. The Moscovitches (in honor of the playwright’s ancestors) suffer extreme prejudice, poverty, family health crisis and each other, but come through it. We even hear an epilogue.
There’s more similarity to the tenor of Indecent here than Fiddler on The Roof. Hannah Moscovitch’s book is economic, perceptive, and respectful. The piece is poetic, wrenching, unexpectedly tender and, at times, amusing. Song, with music of traditionally Jewish feel and smart, highly skilled lyrics, carry one along with the intensity of inexorable current. The few sung in Hebrew needn’t be literally comprehended in order to be deeply affected. Whoever we are, somewhere in history, we are these people.
Christian Barry’s Staging/Direction is imaginative. The couple’s dialogue is enacted with attention to what’s also unsaid. Barry gives his players time to think and feel. Focus is omnipresent. Actor/musicians transition with fluidity. Caplan is whooshed all over the place in guise and spirit, yet also exceptionally solemn when required.
Chris Weatherstone (Chaim) and Mary Fay Coady (Chaya) are a riveting match, delivering equally muscular and nuanced performance. Both sing well and are superior musicians.
Ben Caplan (The Wanderer) is talented, magical; sometimes Uncle Sol and occasionally a bit frightening, a highwayman with out-sized charisma who might easily lead us any which way. His dynamic, gritty vocals resonate.
Symbiotic Set and Lighting Design by Louisa Adamson and Christian Barry are integral to the piece’s ultimate potency. Carly Beamish has Costumed the stage with utter authenticity. Voice and Speech Coach Susan Stackhouse gives us clarity and accent that ring true
Also featuring Jamie Kronick – Percussion, Graham Scott- Keyboard and Accordion
Stoo Metz Photography
Opening: Ben Caplan
2B Theatre Company presents
Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story
Created by Hannah Moscovitch, Ben Caplan, Christian Barry
Written by Hannah Moscovitch
Directed by Christian Barry
Assistant Director – Laura Vingoe-Cram
Songs by Ben Caplan & Christian Barry
Through April 22, 2018