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Chaim's Love Song

a Comedy/Drama
CATEGORY : COMEDY DRAMA
by Marvin Chernoff

COMPANY : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
VENUE : Kudzu Playhouse [WEBSITE]
ID# 3733

SHOWING : June 11, 2010 - July 18, 2010

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PRODUCTION DESCRIPTION

A chance meeting of a young homesick teacher from Iowa and a Jewish, retired New York mailman is the catalyst of this stirring dramatic comedy. Over 4 days their ongoing conversation blooms into a love song for life-a tale of friendship,hope,survival and triumph.


CAST & CREW LIST
Assistant Director Maureen Krivo
Director Lane Teilhaber
stage manager Colleen Kilts
lights and sound David Shelton
Rachel Lora Berry
Reuben Zachary Bromberg
Kelly Jessica Crow
Chaim Rial Ellsworth
Tzawrah Maxine Rosen
Oscar Murray Sarkin
Pearl Mary Sittler
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REVIEWS

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Sunday in the Park With Chaim
by Dedalus
Monday, July 19, 2010
5.0
Chaim Shotsky is not extraordinary man. A Brooklyn mailman in the sunset of his life, he has spent the years dutifully being husband and provider, father and friend. He spends his free time in the park, feeding the pigeons and sharing stories and jokes with his friend Oscar. Now Oscar is gone.

Kelly Burke is not an extraordinary woman. She is an Irish shiksa, an ex-schoolteacher from Iowa, and is now living in Brooklyn, homesick, her new husband studying and leaving her to spend her days alone and idle.

Marvin Chernoff’s “Chaim’s Love Song” is not a tale of extraordinary deeds or events. It is about an old man and a young woman who share some time in a Brooklyn park, who break bread and trade stories and feed pigeons.

And yet, I left this production having experienced something extraordinary, having met two fully formed characters whose lives and experiences and loves have more meaning to them than to us yet who still moved me in extraordinary ways.

In his youth, Chaim lost his first wife and was remarried (via matchmaker) to Tzawrah, a holocaust survivor who has bitterly turned her back on life and love. Their union is peaceful and dutiful and according to custom and tradition. Yet it is no more than that. Chaim’s son, Reuben, is a mostly unemployed actor, and his daughter, Rachel, has decided to desert her family to “find herself.”

In spite of all this, Chaim is a man who can’t help but embrace life with a lusty passion that embraces the many “downs” as deeply as the few “ups.” Yes, he is having a bitter rivalry with God, but that is part and parcel of the roller coaster that is his life.

And his spirit and joy and friendship are all Kelly needs to rekindle her already fading marriage, to fully embrace life and circumstance as deeply as has Chaim.

And, in the spirit of no good attitude goes unrewarded, in the spirit of “there are no unhappy Jewish love songs,” a late trip to Israel rekindles Tzawrah’s passions, and lights a spark in Chaim’s life that cannot be quenched.

This is an extraordinary production with performances that far exceed any expectations you may have of community theatre and Kudzu Playhouse. Rial Ellsworth drives this show as Chaim, infusing him with a passion and an energy that turns him into a life force that cannot be ignored. This is one of the best performances of the year (Mr. Ellsworth has already received a well-deserved M.A.T. nomination for his work), and it is a joy to watch. Mr. Ellsworth hits every emotional high and low just right, hits that Brooklyn accent just right, hits every infectious joke and story just right. To be honest, I can’t imagine anyone else giving this complete and winning a performance.

As Kelly, Jessica Crow has a much more difficult task – mainly listening to and reacting to Chaim’s story. Yet, she still manages to impress by not “fading into the background,” giving Kelly a sad vulnerability that Chaim responds to and quickly overcomes. In supporting roles, Murray Sarkin as Chaim’s friend Oscar, Zachary Bromberg as Reuben, Lora Berry as Rachel, and Mary Sittler in a whole passel of roles all give fine support. And Maxine Rosen as Tzawrah is astounding, showing us a cold dis-emotionality that gradually warms as the years pass, as reminders of her youth come back to warm her later years. Her scenes with Chaim are moving for what’s not said, for what eventually is said, for the final chorus that is the coda of this particular love song.

Director Lane Teilhaber is to be commended for keeping the show moving at a fast clip, skillfully blending flashbacks into the story, and bringing out such marvelous work from his cast. Wally Hinds and David Shelton have produced a set and lighting design that supports the story well without being intrusive, and the overall look of the show is a huge part of its success.

I spent last Sunday in a Brooklyn Park with an unextraordinary man and his unextraordinary new friend, watching his unextraordinary story.

And I had one of the most extraordinary times I’ve ever had at this particular venue.

L’Chaim!

-- Brad Rudy (BKRudy@aol.com)


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To Life, to Life, L'Chaim!
by playgoer
Sunday, July 18, 2010
4.0
"Chaim's Love Song," playing at the Kudzu Playhouse, is a charming, beautifully directed show. Lane Teilhaber has shaped his talented cast of seven into performers who strive to bring his vision to life. It's a lively vision, placed in the midst of a brownstone-surrounded Brooklyn park designed by Wally Hinds.

The most successful in melding his performance with the director's vision is Rial Ellsworth, who plays Chaim Shotsky with Yiddish inflections and humor-filled sincerity. He becomes Chaim, his lush graying beard perfectly capturing the look of a 65-year-old Jew. His performance is matched in sincerity by Jessica Crow, who plays fish-out-of-water Kelly Burke, an Iowan of Irish heritage newly plopped in Brooklyn with her neglectful professor husband. Much of her stage time is given over to reaction, which she does superbly. (Her action and delivery are pretty darn good too!)

The rest of the cast seem to perform the actions requested by the director, but the actions don't always seem to be an organic part of their performances. When they are, it's joyous. The highlight, for me, was Maxine Rosen's attempt (as Chaim's wife Tzawrah) to tell a joke, pausing with comic satisfaction at each point in the arduous process of getting to the punchline. It was stagey and quirkily paced, but timed perfectly for comedic effect. In many other cases, though, the actors don't perform with complete naturalness, being just a hair away from portraying their characters with complete confidence in the way the director sees.

The music chosen for scene changes is uninspired, but it only needs to cover costume changes (no set changes), so the selections are mercifully brief. Lighting is subtle and realistic, using a spotlight effect only at the emotional point at which act one ends and act two begins. The set pieces perfectly capture the locale.

The story, filled with enacted memories of bygone conversations and events, builds to a satisfyingly sentimental conclusion. This is a very Jewish play, but with Yiddish terms carefully explained to the shiksa Kelly to keep the dialogue easily understandable to any goyim in the audience. "Chaim's Love Song" is a sweet, entertaining play that leaves audiences with a warm glow, its effects perfectly gauged by Lane Teilhaber for maximum impact. [POST A COMMENT REGARDING THIS REVIEW]


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