Off-Broadway Review: “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story” at 59E59 Theaters

Joseph Verlezza

  • Contributing New York City Critic

Steeped in tradition, a musical commentary relevant to the current socio-political atmosphere, and an old tale told with songs that echo the poets of the past and the spoken word of the present, are the skeleton of “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story,” the Klezmer-folk music-theater hybrid now playing at 59E59 Theaters. The Wanderer (a captivating Ben Caplan) is the soul, casting a spell that captures your emotions, sneaks into your heart, shrouding it with sadness and then leaves you filled with joy ready to celebrate the human spirit. A showman, emerging from a shipping container, he has traveled from somewhere, only stopping to share a revelation, then moving on and as his hands artfully punctuate the music, he weaves together the stories of two Jewish Romanian refugees, who fled to Canada in 1908. He travels with a motley group of talented actor-musicians, who bring the narrative of two refugees to life and accompany him with klezmer music. As he twirls and drifts across the stage he reinforces a cultural heritage, using dance to express joy, mourning or any other emotion related to the time and event. He is mesmerizing.

Chaya (a simply striking Mary Fay Coady) enhances the sorrow of her troubled journey to a new land that resulted in the death of her husband. She orchestrates her somber emotions with words and the lament that wails from her violin. Chaim (an innocent and determined Chris Weatherstone) manifests the will of a young man who experienced the horrors of war but clings to hope. He challenges despair with honesty, integrity and the haunting sounds of his woodwinds. Graham Scott on keyboard and accordion, along with Jamie Kronick on percussion complete the skillfully accomplished ensemble.

Old Stock WP.jpg

The deft direction by Christian Barry keeps the journey fluid, never wasting a glance or movement to communicate an emotion. Playwright Hannah Moscovitch presents a script that is clear, concise and colored with empathy but never sentimental. Mr. Caplan and Mr. Barry produce songs that transcend time and bridge centuries providing an understanding of the human condition regardless of race, color or creed. The set and lighting design by Louisa Adamson and Christian Barry is dark and moody but illuminates the story and sheds the proper glow to make the players shine. Costume designer Carly Beamish clads this troupe in the appropriate attire whether an impresario or immigrant. The entire creative team has created a remarkable experience that could only be accomplished with true theatrical collaboration.

This is a not-to-be-missed theatrical event everyone should behold and like Chaya and Chaim possibly be persuaded to look “into the eyes of God.”

 

OLD STOCK: A REFUGEE LOVE STORY

The cast of “Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story” features Ben Caplan, Mary Fay Coady, Jamie Kronick, Graham Scott, and Chris Weatherstone.

The design team includes Louisa Adamson and Christian Barry with Andrew Cull (set design); Louisa Adamson and Christian Barry (lighting design); and Carly Beamish (costume design). The Production Stage Manager is Louisa Adamson. Production photos by Stoo Metz Photography.

“Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story” runs for a limited engagement through Sunday, April 22. The performance schedule is Tuesday – Friday at 7:00 p.m.; Saturday at 2:00 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.; and Sunday at 2:00 p.m. Performances are at 59E59 Theaters (59 East 59th Street, between Park and Madison). Single tickets are $25 - $70 ($25 - $49 for 59E59 Members). Tickets are available by calling Ticket Central at 212-279-4200 or online at www.59e59.org. Running time is 80 minutes with no intermission.