Monday, February 4, 2019

2b theatre's Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story is an irresistible burst of entertainment and poignancy: Herald Sun Review

Published in print in Melbourne's Herald Sun 31st January, 2019.

You’ll be laughing through tears, riveted by the journey and brought to question what you would do if a stranger came knocking on your door late at night in Canadian-born 2b theatre’s Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story

A show so easily transportable, it’s unpacked from a shipping container with human contents searching for a new life, looking for connection and building anew. Told through songs and short scenes, it’s an irresistible burst of entertainment and poignancy. 

From playwright Hannah Moscovitch, it traces the story of her great grandparents Chaim and Chaya, Romanian Jewish immigrants driven out of Europe by poverty and massacres in 1908.

Ben Caplan as The Wanderer 
Co-creator and musician Ben Caplan emerges as The Wanderer, an eccentric rabbi-cum-ringmaster of sorts and a consummate showman with a tremendously versatile voice. In a piquant mix of cabaret mode and neo-klezmer song, bushy-bearded Caplan shifts emotional energy effortlessly from the bleak and sentimental to the comic and bawdy. Caplan narrates, cajoles and flits about in anarchic abandon, picking up guitar and banjo for added musical spice. 

But the heart of the story resides in the container full of Old World artefacts where four musicians in simple attire make music together. From either side, two of them step into the low-lit space to channel Chaim and Chaya’s affecting story from their arrival in Halifax.

Dani Oore on clarinet is infectious as the gentle-souled and persevering Chaim, a man left bereft by the loss of his entire family. On violin as the dry and aloof young widow Chaya, who lost her first newly born during her flight to safety, Mary Fay Coady amuses to no end with brilliantly inflected, uncontrived comebacks. 

Watching their dynamics as the unlikely marriage unfolds, through to the awkwardness in their sexual intimacy and eventual birth of their first son and beyond, the window to their life is extraordinarily framed. It’s a story of truth, one of dedication and of remarkable survival. But broader, it’s a powerful statement on inclusiveness to which Moscovitch gives a loving patina and Caplan witty exuberance. 

Old Stock: A Refugee Love Story
2b theatre company
Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne 
Until 2nd February, 2019

Production Photos: Fadi Acra

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