You Naughty, Naughty Gods

Orpheus descends to the realm of the silly; The Chosen depicts the contemplative life

Men in black: Aaron J. Oster and Daniel Kronzer in Potok's The Chosen
Men in black: Aaron J. Oster and Daniel Kronzer in Potok's The Chosen

Potok's novel dealt with language and its absence, and this works well on the stage. Conflicts in the story arise through differing opinions, as expressed through words, and most of the physical action of the novel consists of children turning the pages of books and arguing about meaning. The play mounts these strange action scenes like the skirmishes they are, and in doing so re-creates a prototypically Jewish moment from the past two thousand years: young Talmudists, engaged in argument, punctuating their small intellectual victories by pressing their thumbs into the air triumphantly. "You must learn to listen to the words behind the words," Malter's father (David Coral) advises his son, and on the stage--where language is as important as action--these conflicts of language develop extraordinary complexity. Consistent with the tradition of Judaism, there is no resolution here--just further argument and further interpretation.

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