The Wanderers – A Rondo of Relationships

“I was seventeen when I realized I was going to marry Abe…I was about to turn forty when I realized I would leave him,” Sophie (Sarah Cooper) says, or rather appears to read. (As we don’t find out what she’s reading from until the end of the play, this is confusing.)

Abe (Eddie Kaye Thomas) is a Pulitzer Prize winning novelist. His wife, having had her sole book published to poor reviews, turned to being a full time wife and mother-with burgeoning jealousy. They’ve established a marital rhythm.

We meet Esther (Lucy Freyer) and Schmuli (Dave Klasko) directly after their arranged Hasidic marriage. Both are awkward virgins. This may be Esther’s first wig. Having done some forbidden reading, she gently leads. It’s clear from the start, the young woman is more open minded, her new husband thoroughly immersed in tradition/rules. They seem hopeful and warm.

Lucy Freyer (Esther) and Dave Klasko (Schmuli)

Movie star Julia Cheever (Katie Holmes) sat in the front row of a downtown bookstore reading by Abe. He couldn’t take his eyes off her. When she emails a fan letter, he’s gobsmacked. Correspondence unexpectedly ensues. Abe is increasingly candid offering thoughts and feelings he might otherwise share with Sophie. Julia is perhaps more friendly than prudent, but never goes over the line.

The mistitled play (there’s one inadequate reference/explanation) is a rondo alternating between couples. On the surface very different, the marriages have commonalities. Both suffer from obtuse men and wives who subjugate their own needs to evolving consequence. Judaism is subliminal in Sophie’s life, but informs that of Abe. While increasingly the bane of Esther’s existence, the religion is besora (gospel) to Schmuli. Both husbands use the word beshert (Yiddish for destiny) referring  to their mates. All four begin in love.

Anna Ziegler’s tale is a combination of three derivative plots, yet emerges entertaining and sympathetic. It’s naturalistic, well written and deftly produced. The cast is excellent.

Katie Holmes (Julia Cheever) and Eddie Kaye Thomas (Abe)

Director Barry Edelstein works his way around or utilizes the set – a large, institutional looking table (and chairs) with imagination. Physical manifestation of relationships is telling. Julia and Abe begin distant and end up with his head in her lap (while still online). At one point angrily reacting to being called weak by Esther, Schmuli lunges, only to end up on his knees – terrific. Emotional fireworks are appropriate. Pacing is good.

Marion Williams’ set is not only obscure and unoriginal but an impediment. Why the table? Though impressively executed, another floor to ceiling wall of books is perhaps the fourth I’ve seen in a year. It relates only to one couple.

Costumes by David Israel Reynoso fit characters to a T, though I wonder at Sophie’s wearing deeply conservative apparel years after she breaks away.

Original music and sound design by Jane Shaw is subtle and effective. Amanda Quaid has done an admirable job with dialect.

We only think we know where we’re going.

Photos by Joan Marcus
Opening Eddie Kaye Thomas (Abe), Sarah Cooper (Sophie)

The Wanderers by Anna Ziegler
Directed by Barry Edelstein
Through April 2, 2023
Roundabout at Laura Pels Theatre
111 West 46th Street 

About Alix Cohen (1471 Articles)
Alix Cohen is the recipient of ten New York Press Club Awards for work published on this venue. Her writing history began with poetry, segued into lyrics and took a commercial detour while holding executive positions in product development, merchandising, and design. A cultural sponge, she now turns her diverse personal and professional background to authoring pieces about culture/the arts with particular interest in artists/performers and entrepreneurs. Theater, music, art/design are lifelong areas of study and passion. She is a voting member of Drama Desk and Drama League. Alix’s professional experience in women’s fashion fuels writing in that area. Besides Woman Around Town, the journalist writes for Cabaret Scenes, Broadway World, TheaterLife, and Theater Pizzazz. Additional pieces have been published by The New York Post, The National Observer’s Playground Magazine, Pasadena Magazine, Times Square Chronicles, and ifashionnetwork. She lives in Manhattan. Of course.