By William Wolf

OLD STOCK: A REFUGEE LOVE STORY  Send This Review to a Friend

Bearded Ben Kaplan, who performs at times like a roaring lion, is a singing narrator dubbed The Wanderer, who coordinates a charming saga about refugees finding a home in Canada and the evolvement of a family through generations. The work, presented by 2B Theatre Company, has been created by Caplan, Hannah Moscovitch and Christian Barry and is highlighted by a score that’s a mix of klezmer and folk, with actors doubling as musicians.

Most of the songs are by Caplan and Barry, with the music as the unifying force in the tale that takes flight when two refugees meet early in the 20th century. Chaim (also on woodwinds) and performed by Chris Weatherstone, is a shy man. Chaya, also on violin, is a widow played by Mary Fay Coady. Her late husband was the love of her life. Can she ever find happiness with another man? Yet she and Chaim, tentative at first, are to make a new life together despite her lingering past love. (The other musicians are Graham Scott on keyboard and accordion and Jamie Kronick, percussion.)

Caplan comes across as a life force that keeps the story spinning, but the gentle characterizations of Chaim and Chaya set the stage for a sensitive look into their relationship and ensuing struggles to make a new life.

It is almost too obvious to point to the timeliness of such a show, given the pitiful growing refugee problem in today’s world and the Trump administration’s hostility to admitting refugees from certain countries. There is a lovely unity formed by the integration of music and acting, and the cast merits high commendation, as do the show’s creators.

At times Caplan’s colorful signing and narration ignite sparks, and at other times the musical’s subtleties emerge with intense feeling communicated by the blending of the performances and the instrumentals. At 59E59 Theaters, 59 East 59th Street. Phone: 212-279-4200. Reviewed March 19, 2018.


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